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The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

After a decade of frequently embarrassing, slipshod, juvenile, smarmy, clichéd and regressive output, Woody Allen finally comes good with The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001), a solid, witty and consistently pleasing comedy caper. Allen stars as Briggs, an aging 1930s insurance investigator constantly at loggerheads with his firm's threatening new efficiency expert, Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt). Just as Fitzgerald is planning the demise of Briggs' entire department, a series of baffling burglaries strikes the firm's wealthiest clients, introducing controversy, suspicion, and some damning evidence into the inter-office tension, and forcing Briggs to utilize all of his investigative resources. While Curse never aspires to the philosophical reach of Allen's greatest works, it does fit in perfectly with his breezy comedies of the early 1980s. The banter between Briggs and Fitzgerald contains some of Allen's sharpest wordplay, and the plot, while never surprising, is clever and tight. Unlike most of Allen's terrible streak of clunkers since 1992's brilliant Husbands and Wives, the worst that can be said about Curse is that Allen, as a performer, is at times too big, and that Hunt should sue her makeup artist. Also with Dan Aykroyd, Charlize Theron, Wallace Shawn, David Ogden Stiers, and Elizabeth Berkeley. DreamWorks presents this bare-bones DVD in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Allen's preferred monaural audio. Trailer, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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