Woody Allen Strikes Gold With 'Jade'

Woody Allen and Helen Hunt in "Curse of the Jade Scorpion"

Not since Laurence Harvey in "The Manchurian Candidate" has there been a better mindless zombie on the big screen than Woody Allen in "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion."

Just say the magic word and a hypnotized Woody is suddenly transformed from an insurance investigator into a jewel thief, who burgles the stately homes of his own clients, and then chases his clueless self into the arms of a fast-talking Helen Hunt and the slow-witted Keystone Cops - as if Franz Kafka went round and round in a revolving door with the Marx Brothers and the Stepford Wives.

The Leonard File
Read past reviews by John Leonard.
In "Scorpion," an affectionate sendup of the screwball comedies and the shamus capers of the 1940s, Woody is a male chauvinist piggy detective threatened by Hunt, the efficiency expert. At an office party in the Rainbow Room, they will be hypnotized by David Ogden Stiers, who has an ulterior agenda. While investigating himself, Woody discovers Charlize Theron, pretending to be Lauren Bacall. But Woody has always been guilty of something - maybe arrested development.

"Jade Scorpion" is all smiles on a summer night. I’ll admit that I gave up on Woody Allen after "Deconstructing Harry," which seemed to me farcical Fellini and misbegotten Bergman, a sort of "8 1/2 Wild Strawberries" with sour cream. Which doesn’t mean I stopped going to his movies; I just stopped expecting much.

To my amazement, he kept on making them anyway, as if he didn’t care that I didn’t care, or just couldn’t help himself. But he’s helped himself here, all the way back to "Bananas."

©MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved