Some curses are stronger than others

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is seemingly a slight wisp of a Woody Allen film. The premise is simple, but an excellent backdrop for Allen's style of banter: an expert insurance investigator (Allen) and the new company efficiency expert (Helen Hunt) - two people who hate each other - are brought on stage during a hypnotist's act, made to be in love with each other for the act, but the hypontic suggestion is left with them both, and the hypnotist starts calling Allen and having him pull off jewel robberies with his own inside information.

The plot unfolds with many of the expected complications. These serve largely as background for Allen's particular brand of banter. Expect the usual sorts of scenes we find in his pictures - from the possibility of sex with someone way too young for him, to mocking his own neuroses, these scenes have a certain familiarity to them.

Dan Aykroyd, as Allen's boss and Hunt's secret love interest, is a hard actor is use right - as a comedy, this should be the right place for him, but Allen's writing is dry and more character-oriented than it may seem on the surface, and there are moments when it seems like he simply wandered onto the set.

I'm also left wondering about a scene at nearly the end of the film with hypnotist, and Allen regular, David Ogden Stiers holding a gun, that seems to commit the film version of "dead air" - what I mean by that is, as film is typically constructed as a series of moments imparting a particular meaning or mood to the audience, we have a protracted few seconds of nothingness. I'd have to blame Allen the director over Allen the writer here if only for not overriding his own script.

Allen demonstrates the maturity of his writing by not overdoing the plot - it seems almost extraneous, even - and leading us through an ending where our nurtured expectations are turned around cleverly on us. Yet this is a cheap parlor trick compared to what Allen is capable of. His turn of late to more traditional comedies (as DeNiro seems to be doing as well) isn't a bad idea, but he's learned a lot over the years, and is capable of much better filmmaking than this.

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