Dirty old men are in style these days and Woody Allen is the dirtiest. No longer really known for the quality of his film making, but rather the veracity of his horny old man sex drive, it appears even Allen has run out of new ideas.
Curse of the Jade Scorpion stars Woody Allen as C.W. Briggs, a character, who not so surprisingly, is pretty much like all his other characters. Only this time, Woody takes his neurosis into the world of 1940's insurance investigators! Though truthfully, the time period is merely a side bar on the way to recycling old jokes and silver screen mayhem. Indeed, the only thing about the film that truly feels 1940's is the plot, ripped straight from the marquee of pre-WWII afternoon cinema. Certainly there is some attempt at 40's style clothing and decor, but discerning viewers are likely to suspect the film's timeline is more an aftereffect of Woody shopping at Goodwill, than anything necessitated by script concerns.
The plot, nearly as old as Allen appears, features Briggs committing crimes under hypnosis after attending a Mentalist stage show, in which he, and bitter rival Betty-Ann (Helen Hunt) are briefly hypnotized into believing they are lovers. A few mildly hilarious hijinks follow, spaced in and around brief appearance by office coworkers, mainly composed of lower level Hollywood sycophants desperate to appear in a Woody Allen film. And while most of them apparently felt it unnecessary to engage in any acting during the movie, they do manage to mill about in a nearly entertaining fashion.
Even Elizabeth Berkley managed to land a role, a feat in and of itself after she destroyed her career exposing her ample bosom in the not-so-cult classic Showgirls. And despite my deeply ingrained Saved by the Bell leanings, even I have to admit her appearance proves that it wasn't Showgirls which destroyed her career, merely her lack of talent. Unless acting like an aging mule with a banana up his ass is considered talent... and in Woody's circle, it might be. But, at least the costumers went out of their way to minimize her breasts, instantly reminding everyone in the audience of how big they really are. Leading viewers to wonder why she would choose to hide her only real talent?
Yet all is not lost, because after years of picking terrible scripts in which he still somehow pulled off some decent acting, Dan Akyroyd finally picked a film helmed by a decent director! Sadly, he simultaneously decided to portray his character as an over inflated blowup doll reading lines from a tele-prompter. Dan! Corporate Tycoon, NOT Corporate Buffoon. On the other hand, he might deserve at least a little credit. After all, he did manage to look like he enjoyed kissing Helen Hunt, even while her face appeared to be slowly sliding off her face, taking her youth and poorly hidden mustache with it.
It is not every film that could be this blandly written and frequently flawed and still be enjoyable. But, unlike Woody's last few films, which were actually more creative and better acted, Curse of the Jade Scorpion turns in an almost happy experience. Like its lead character, the film is scruffy, grimy, and old. But, it is also occasionally funny. Yes, the jokes are all recycled, the scenes are all transplants from better films, and Woody says all the same things he's said a million times before in every other film he has ever made. Still, Jade Scorpion makes it a little bit funny all over again. Looking past the bad acting and the blatant script rip-offs, Jade Scorpion is hardly Allen's best, but there are worse things you could be watching.