The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Pat Reeder

"But C.W. I have to turn you in. Witnesses saw you do it.

Who? Who saw me?

Well, me for one.

Who are you going to believe, you or me?"

Well, yes, that was pretty funny, but it was in the trailer and, sadly enough, was about the only example of real wit in this curiously old-fashioned film. Oh, there's a logical explanation for that dialogue, if you really care:

Woody committed the crimes while under hypnosis, and he didn't know he committed 'em. That's not a spoiler. That's the set-up.


  • none

And that's the first problem in the movie - that should have been a spoiler. Imagine if Woody the detective had been on the trail of Woody the crook, and neither he nor we knew who the crook was. Couldn't that have been a classic Woody set-up? Think of all the nasty remarks he would have made about the bungling incompetence of the criminal, only to have them come back to haunt him. That premise works for both humor and mystery. But Woody didn't use it for either. We knew he did it right from the start. We knew that he and his bickering Vasser-educated rival (Helen Hunt) would fall in love. The only thing in doubt was how he would justify it in the script.

Perhaps you have a long-term relationship with someone. You know how it is with them now? There isn't any passion any more, but you remember what it used to be like, and now it's just so comfortable, and you like them. That seems to sum up the relationship we fans have with Woody. We have to watch every one of his movies, even though all our sensible friends warn us away. We laugh three or four times in the movie, we move our shoulders and tap our feet when the jazz starts to play, and we come out of the theater thinking, "well, that had some positives. Yes, it was coolly conceptual. He made a movie about the 40's, and (nudge-nudge) he used the film techniques and plot devices that they would have used back then. Jeez, I wonder why he didn't make it in black and white"

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no meaningful features

  • wildly overpriced for a bare bones DVD (SRP $33)

Not like the old days, is it? Remember when you came out of Bananas, and thought "I gotta see that again", and then you had a few drinks with your buds and told them every gag in the film, falling out of your chair just remembering them? Remember when you came out of Manhattan, thinking of all the people that you had to take to that movie, or tell about it? I do. I remember. And I'm still comfortable with Woody. I still like his company.

But the passion is gone.

Comments by Pat Reeder.

I'm one of those guys who's been going to Woody Allen movies since the "Take The Money and Run" days.  I had his collections of short stories and his albums of stand-up in high school, and he was a big influence on me as a comedy writer, but he's made some pretty wan movies lately.  Every so often, he hits one out of the park (who would've imagined he would've come up with "Crimes and Misdemeanors" at such a late date, and "Small Time Crooks" had some good laughs, many courtesy of Tracy Ullman), but mostly it's a matter of just enjoying the good moments whenever they come.  "Jade Scorpion" had a great score, terrific art direction and sets, and some good scenes and lines here and there, but most of the dialogue just seemed a little tired and uninspired, and he and Helen Hunt had less chemistry than he and Soon-Yi.  Also, seeing such a young woman swoon over him just creeps most audience members out.

Personally, I think one of the Woodman's big problems is that his world has become too insular.  His great comedies were fish-out-of-water films (Woody in the distant future, Woody in a banana republic, Woody in the Russian Army fighting Napoleon), but in recent years, all of his movies have been set among the type of people he lives his entire life around: wealthy Upper West Side limousine liberals with great apartments and more pretentions than Niles Crane.  I don't think he's ever even met a black person in New York, as is obvious from the behavior of the happy, dusky-hued folk at the end of "Alice."  I think this is why his movies have gotten stale: his whole life has gotten stale.  Stung by scandal and supported mostly by his most loyal Manhattan fans, he's just sort of barricaded himself there where everything is comfy and cozy, and the dust is starting to get pretty thick on him.  Where's the humor in seeing a neurotic New Yorker surrounded by other neurotic New Yorkers?  He's beginning to remind me of Pauline Kael, who famously fumed after a landslide presidential election, "How could Nixon have won?!  Nobody I know voted for him!"

If Woody would get the hell out of the Upper West Side, that might actually inspire him to write a fresh, biting comedy again.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 2/4, Apollo 71/100

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 7.2, Apollo users 75/100. I'm sorry to report that this rating is too high. (I wanted it to be true)
  • with their dollars ... more bad news. Woody spent more than usual, ($26 million) to make this film, and brought in less than usual ($7 million).
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. Even Woody fanatics (like me) will have to struggle a bit. At one time, I said out loud "this is really dragging".

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