Is The Curse of the Jade Scorpion vintage Woody Allen? Or has the director lost his edge? We asked our reporters about the film and what ranks as their favorite Allen film.
Kit Bowen: Sure does. He is simply one of the funniest writers out there. The only minor drawback to the film was his decision to cast himself as the lead. I love him to death, but he’s getting a little old to be playing the romantic lead. I hate saying that, but it’s the truth.
Noah Davis: Too old? Is Sean Connery too old to be a lead? Jack Nicholson too old? It’s not that Woody’s too old; he’s too much of a nebbish ever to have been a leading man. Regardless, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is like a loaf of bread that never rose when baked. It had plenty of potential, and even seems OK to swallow, but lands heavily on the tongue and stomach, affecting a result not quite so palatable. (Can you tell I’m hungry as I write this?) Oh, all right. Woody is too old and wizened to play leading man to Helen Hunt. At least Woody acknowledges that it would take a hypnotist to get them together.
Kit Bowen: Good lord, you do go on. Talk about nebbish.
Noah Davis: Smart is as smart does. Go back to your nonsensical humming.
Hollywood.com: Neither of you really answered the question. Does this fall on the clever, witty side of Allen‘s pantheon with Sleeper and Annie Hall or the more mundane, high-jinks side with Broadway Danny Rose and Manhattan Murder Mystery?
Noah Davis: David Ogden-Stiers (the bad guy) hypnotizing Allen and Hunt, and having them do his bidding, is a wisp of a clever idea. But Allen, coming off the intricate and funny Small Time Crooks, has regressed to the leaden high-jinks mode of Broadway Danny Rose and Manhattan Murder Mystery. Allen‘s once sharp, prankish, wry touch has gone soft.
Kit Bowen: Poor Noah. I’m always having to help him understand film … dearest, Broadway Danny Rose and Manhattan Murder Mystery are some of Allen‘s better films, not the opposite. But I have to agree with you on Curse. It certainly has some great and witty dialogue, but it’s not a true Allen classic.
Kit Bowen: Hmmmm, it’s always a hard question for me. I’m a real fan. But I think Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters are my absolute favorites. True, true gems in filmmaking. I also really laughed hard at Bullets Over Broadway…
Noah Davis: Woody Allen‘s best movies always seem to entertain by bringing comedy to serious, philosophical themes. Sleeper, Zelig and Annie Hall are my top three Allen films, though there are many more that could be mentioned. Educated audiences, which would probably exclude my esteemed colleague, recognize and appreciate Allen‘s idiosyncratic blend of philosophy and autobiography.
Kit Bowen: In the words of Bullets‘ Helen Sinclair, “Don’t speak.”
Hollywood.com: Woody Allen never seems to want his films to be too popular. For every segment of the fans he entertains, Allen seems intent on upsetting an equal amount of people. Does he still have the ability to portray tough issues with moral zeal?
Noah Davis: Like David Mamet to a certain extent, Allen loves to tweak Hollywood’s collective nose, and our own preconceived prejudices and neuroses. The more popular his films become, the more Allen must be questioning his own ability. Scorpion never really addresses any tough issues head on, but I don’t think Allen has lost the ability to create dialogue that sheds painfully humorous insight on our own prejudices. I only hope that we get to see that in his next movie, and less of Allen as a suave, debonair, leading man, which he never was.
Kit Bowen: OK, that was well said. But that’s all I’m going to give you. There’s one thing Woody likes to do with films: please himself. And he hopes the audience chimes in. That’s it, really. Sometimes he feels philosophical, sometimes biting, sometimes downright silly. But I think, as he’s gotten older, he has mellowed. Now he just wants to relax.