Critical Reception

 

-Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun Times wrote: "All of this sounds like the setup for a wicked screwball comedy, but somehow "Curse of the Jade Scorpion" never quite lifts off. The elements are here, but not the magic. There are lines that you can see are intended to be funny, but they lack the usual Allen zing. Allen is as always a master of the labyrinthine plot (his characters turn up in the wrong place at the right time, and vice versa, with inexhaustible ingenuity), but we never much care how things turn out."

 

-The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is the 33rd film Woody Allen has written and directed, and the first one that I have no qualms about calling a bad movie. Not a single one of his previous films had any problem holding my interest, and they all had at least one aspect worth praising. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, though, is unfunny, brain-dead, and worst of all, astoundingly dull. [2]

 

-It might have helped had Jade Scorpion been filmed in black & white. Fill the air with smoke and shadows, and when people are in the office, fill the soundtrack with whizzing typewriters, like in old movies. Maybe people could even talk in Carey Grant-esque exaggerated stage voices. The movie is aiming for comedy and serial-level mystery, yet it treats its period with grim sincerity. It’s realistic when it should be fun. [2]

 

-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 Scorpionmakes 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. [5]

 

-James Sanford for the Kalamazoo Gazette wrote: "While it delivers a healthy supply of humor and a few snappy performances, it's so airy it practically floats right off the screen."

 

-Peter Travers for Rolling Stone wrote: "It's a real charmer from a director who feels that a knockabout romantic farce doesn't have to be mindless...No way would I have figured the Woodman - too fussy in Mighty Aphrodite — and Hunt — too strident in Pay It Forward — as a flirty fit, even in jest. But they make an oddly appealing pair of romantic sparring partners"

 

-Jonathan Rosenbaum for the Chicago Reader wrote: "[Allen] let his guard down and has allowed himself and his audience to relax -- something that doesn't often happen when the specters of class and European art hover over his pictures."

 

-45% Rotten Tomato rating

 

-Released on August 24, 2001

-Runtime 103 minutes

-Rated PG-13

-Budget: $28 Million, Gross: $7.5 Million [1] Worldwide gross: $18.9 million [4]

-Production Company: DreamWorks SKG, Perido Productions (uncredited)

-Distributor: DreamWorks Distribution

-Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1

-We all know Woody has a weakness for the ’20s and ’30s. Here The Curse of the Jade Scorpion couldn’t be a more fitting title for a film set in 1940. In those days, detective novels – a literary genre then at its pinnacle – were being turned out practically by the bushel. [7]

 

-Woody Allen: "I think the '20s, '30s and '40s were three fabulous decades in Manhattan, because clothing styles were great, the music's great, and there was a ton of great Broadway theatre, nightclubs and so on. It was just a wonderful time to live. Now, of course, you also had no antibiotics and a lot of great things we take for granted today - cell phones, and so on. But it was a very romantic era, and those men and women with their uniforms and dresses, and the gangsters with their violin cases and machine guns in them, are all part of our folklore, and a very colourful part." [8]

"The Curse of the Jade Scorpion "

 Screening Companion

A Contender for Woody's Worst Film

 

-Woody Allen: “I feel that maybe — and there are many candidates for this — but it may be the worst film I’ve made. I have great regrets and embarrassment.” [2]

 

-Woody Allen: "[The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is] a rather distressingly routine film noir pastiche, originated as "just a funny premise, and the rest is whatever spun out of that." [9]

 

-Allen wanted to re-shoot the film, September-style, but the expensive sets had already been destroyed and the budget wouldn’t allow for them to be re-created. [2]

 

-He explained that part of the problem was the period setting and the set building expense which made it too expensive to go back and reshoot anything. [4]

 

-My understanding of Woody Allen’s artistic trajectory was that it was a slow decline, but I see now that it’s more of spectacular, flaming crash. Just two years ago he directed Sweet and Lowdown, which was almost perfect, and now he’s made this — not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but one of the least interesting. For decades it seemed like he could do no wrong and even his half-assed movies were pretty good. But The Curse of the Jade Scorpion shows us a dark new side of Allen — one that’s capable of making truly terrible films. [2]

 

-Paul Tatara for CNN wrote: "It seems that Allen now makes pictures out of habit, rather than desire or ambition, and the results often feel more like rough drafts than finished products. Laugh-wise, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion falls somewhere in the middle of what can accurately be described as his "mediocre period." It's not a complete, head-scratching washout, like "Alice" (1990) or "Celebrity" (1998). But there's hardly any steam to the narrative, and the insult-laden dialogue often sounds like wham-bam sitcom banter." [9]

 

-Allen has made yet another film that isn't bad enough to hate, but barely good enough to remember. He and his fans would be better off if he'd sit back for a couple of years, then start filming when he has a multidimensional idea, even a relatively lightweight one -- "Zelig" (1983) comes to mind -- that's worthy of his abilities. "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" is a tap on the nose from a director who used to care enough to throw haymakers. And viewers need to be smacked out of their stupor more than ever. [9]

 

Cult Status? TBD

 

-However, in the ten years since its release, it is beginning to enjoy a new generation of cult status comedic recognition. [4]

 

-Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun Times wrote: "...there are pleasures in the film that have little to do with the story. Its look and feel is uncanny; it's a tribute to a black-and-white era, filmed in color, and yet the colors seem burnished and aged. No noir films were shot in color in the 1940s, but if one had been, it would have looked like this. And great attention is given to the women played by Hunt, Berkley and Theron; they look not so much like the women in classic film noir as like the women on film noir posters--their costumes and styles elevate them into archetypes."

 

-The critics for the most part agreed with [Woody] and found the film mediocre. But as a technical exercise in said genre pastiche, the film cleverly manages to be a hybrid of film noir and screwball comedy (two apparent disparate genres), two black and white film genres here re-interpreted with a remarkably textured colour sense. The plot echoes the classic Double Indemnity of course and spins with the hypnosis craze that was popular in the 1940s. [10]

 

-I don’t want to oversell Woody Allen’s 31st feature, which I happen to like. The script is full of holes, most of the one-liners are weak and mechanical, and the plot — a nightclub magician gets two of his hypnotized subjects to steal jewels for him — is so deliberately stupid and contrived that one can probably enjoy it only by pretending it’s a routine, low-budget second feature on an old-fashioned double bill, which is obviously what Allen intended. Yet it’s possible for a picture to be not very good and still be likable — something that doesn’t happen very often for me with Allen’s pictures. [6]

[1] - IMDB.com

[2] - www.EveryWoodyAllenMovie.com

[3] - http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=105423&page=1

[4] - Wikipedia

[5] - http://www.cinemablend.com/reviews/The-Curse-of-the-Jade-Scorpion-164.html

[6] - http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?p=6290

[7] - http://www.wnd.com/2001/08/10491/

[8] - http://cinema.com/articles/612/curse-of-the-jade-scorpion-the-interview-with-woody-allen.phtml

[9] - CNN - http://archives.cnn.com/2001/SHOWBIZ/Movies/08/23/review.jade.scorpion/

[10] - http://letterboxd.com/widerscreenings/film/the-curse-of-the-jade-scorpion/

Trivia

 

-With its production budget of $26 million, this is Woody Allen's most expensive film. [1]

 

-Cinematographer Fei Zhao and Production Designer Santo Loquasto return. [1]

 

-Produced by Woody Allen’s sister, Letty Aronson, who’s also produced all of his movies since. [2]

 

-Allen claims Nicholson and Tom Hanks both turned down roles in The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion. [3]

 

-According to Woody Allen, this is one of his worst movies because he's leading it. He couldn't find anyone to play the lead and had to do it himself, even though he felt he wasn't a good fit for the part. [1]

 

-The protagonist was originally a private detective, but Allen switched it to insurance investigator when he found out he’d be playing the role himself (he didn’t think he’d be credible as a detective. [2]

 

-Woody Allen came up with the movie’s general plot 40 years earlier, when he conceived of it as a sketch for one of the shows he was writing for at the time. [2]

 

-Woody Allen: "I didn't think of anyone when I wrote it, but when I was casting and Helen's name came up, I immediately felt she was ideal. And we were very lucky as she was available. In fact, the whole cast I'd wanted was available - Charlize, Dan, everything just slotted in." [8]

 

-Woody Allen is very secretive with his scripts when he is working. Helen Hunt was allowed to read the entire script when she was offered the part, but she had to read it in one sitting and then give it back to the courier who was waiting to take it back. [1]

 

-In its opening weekend, the film played at slightly over 900 screens, the largest opening engagement for any Woody Allen film. However, the box office take that weekend was only $2.5 million. [1]

 

-For her audition, Elizabeth Berkley had her hair done in a Veronica Lake 1940s-style. Unfortunately on the way to the audition, she got caught in a rainstorm and her hair was ruined. [1]

 

-Despite the fact that this was filmed in the standard spherical format, "Filmed in Panavision" is listed in the end credits. [1]

 

-The song that plays every time someone gets hypnotized is “In A Persian Market” by Wilbur de Paris. [2]