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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to draw inspiration from a fortune cookie. The best fortune I’ve seen was, “Sorry, wrong cookie.” Instead, though, I chose my movie and poem based on one that said, “Don’t expect romantic attachments to be strictly logical or rational!”.)

 

That woman they just hired
Makes me wish I could get fired,
And what’s worse she has authority to do it.
Whatever hospital conferred her
On this world so ripe for murder,
I’ve a mind to find the big behind and sue it.

Her sarcasm is offending,
And she’s always condescending
And expects me to stay silent as a mime.
She’s an ever-present itch;
Her heart and soul are black as pitch;
And she’s other unattractive words that rhyme.

She’s conceited; she’s annoying,
And I know that she’s enjoying
Every day that brings me close to suicide.
But to see if I can win her,
I’ll be taking her to dinner
In the hopes that I can put all that aside.
__________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

I don’t have much experience with Woody Allen’s films. I’ve only seen Midnight in Paris, which I rather liked, and Hannah and Her Sisters, which I really don’t remember, but those whose opinions I trust often write him off as a sex-obsessed dirty old man. Of course, even sex-obsessed dirty old men can make good movies, and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is a good example.

Allen plays C.W., a 1940s investigator for an insurance company who butts heads with the new efficiency expert Betty Ann (Helen Hunt), secretly in the middle of an affair with their boss (Dan Aykroyd). The two of them have a textbook case of anti-chemistry: everything about each of them gets under the other’s skin, and they both revel in colorful insults and behind-the-back complaints. Their coworkers love the irony when C.W. and Betty Ann are hypnotized by a magician into believing they are in love, but when that same magician (David Ogden Stiers) uses their trances to turn them into thieves, how can anyone discover the truth?

Allen himself considers this one of his worst films, but except for one key aspect, I can’t see why. The insults and innuendo are sharp and clever without ever crossing the line into distasteful, and the mystery is consistently amusing. The one less-than-ideal element is Allen as the lead, with which the director was himself dissatisfied. A younger and more appealing actor as C.W. would have been more likable and would have made the development of C.W. and Betty Ann’s relationship a bit more believable.

Toward the end, the film threatens to go in a manipulative direction, but rights itself with romantic aplomb, showing that Allen knew what he was doing as the screenwriter. As it is, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion still succeeds on the strength of its dialogue and warmly nostalgic period setting, but I’d love to have seen Tom Hanks in the lead. (A Cast Away reunion with Hunt! I can see it.)

Best line: (C.W.) “The house is messy. If I knew you were coming, I’d have rearranged the dirt.”

Other best line: (Laura Kensington, a socialite) “You have a fresh mouth. I don’t think I like it.”   (C.W.) “I tend to grow on people. We could meet later, and I could grow on you.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2016 S. G. Liput

380 Followers and Counting

 

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