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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/21/02

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
2001 (2002) - Dreamworks

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/C/D+

Specs and Features

102 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, filmographies, production notes, film-themed menu screens, scene access (25 chapters), languages: English, French and Spanish (DD 1.0 mono), subtitles: English

"Would you go out and try coming back in like a human being? And if you don't like the human being idea, try coming back in like an orangutan. That'd be a step up too."

C.W. Briggs (Woody Allen) is an insurance investigator at a big insurance company in the early 1940's. He's a dinosaur, the only investigator still on staff, and the newly hired efficiency expert Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt) wants to get rid of him. They both hate each other with a passion, a passion that gets revealed when both attend an office party at the Rainbow Room, where a hypnotist (David Ogden Stires) forces them to reveal their true feelings for each other. However, the hypnotist leaves the spell on them, using it to force them to commit crimes for him, like stealing valuables that their company is insuring. While they're at each other's throats trying to figure out who the culprit in these crimes is, they can't help but be in love while they are committing them. Will they be able to crack the case and find out that the magician is the true culprit, and still be in love with each other?

Most obviously, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion suffers from a case of the "cutes." The premise is almost too cute for its own good, and Woody and the gang play it up. The film is peppered with some nice performances. Charlize Theron is great as a Veronica Lake-esqe heiress who is strangely drawn to C.W, even though she can't explain why, and her character helps in providing the film's most memorable moments and droll dialogue. Plus, I don't find Helen Hunt nearly as mean-spirited as I do in Mad About You re-runs, mainly because the character calls for it, and Helen has some nice material to work with here.

However, the film seems to run a tad long for the material. It also feels as though every scene was shot on a set, which it was, but these sets don't feel "lived in." And characters, such as the hypnotist, don't seem nearly as memorable as they were probably written to be. But this is all very incidental to the story, which is the film's strength... however tongue-in-cheek cute it is.

The transfer on the DVD is not bad, but not horribly great. There's not much in the way of grain or artifacting. However, there is an excessive amount of edge enhancement and color bleeding. Also, the skin tones seem a bit orange. The audio track provided is in big, fat 1.0 MONO. It's no surprise to Woody fans, as he only records his films in mono these days. It's also not a big problem, as like his other films, this is a "talky". Everything can be clearly heard. The music might have sounded a bit better in stereo, but no problem.

The extras are thin, as usual. The entertaining theatrical trailer is presented anamorphically, and you get detailed cast and crew filmographies and production notes that expand on the included liner notes.

Though not that successful at the box office (which means it was actually successful by Woody's standards), The Curse of the Jade Scorpion still manages to be an entertaining mystery/romantic comedy... whether you're a Woody fan or not.

Graham Greenlee
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