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Cursed Comedy

You are getting sleepy. You are getting very sleepy. Watch the frantic man. Listen to him worry. You are getting sleepy because you are watching Woody Allen's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion--a boring wasteland of a film.

In his 31st directorial effort, Allen has created a tedious comedy about a 1940s insurance investigator named C.W. Briggs (Allen) and his love interest, the Yber-bitch efficiency expert Betty Ann Fitzpatrick (Helen Hunt, who appears to be pining again for the youthful good looks of former co-star Jack Nicholson). Briggs and Betty Ann are hypnotized at an office party, and become jewel thieves that can be triggered into trance by a single word. Briggs is the investigator assigned to the case and is supposed to track himself down. In retrospect, it's not a bad premise. But in reality, it's a film-fusion mistake.

Allen can make two types of films well--the off-the-wall screwball comedy (Bananas) and the mature romantic comedy (Annie Hall). However, he cannot mix the two. With Scorpion, he delivers a screwball setup executed by a swarm of straight men, punctuated by a long string of failed one-liners--mostly between Hunt and the Woodman himself. The laugh-out-loud zingers can be counted on one hand.

The supporting cast is limp, as stars like Dan Aykroyd and Charlize Theron frustrate the audience with pointless and lingering cameos. By the time the film sputters to its obvious conclusion, it seems the tradition of the annual Allen film may also be reaching its own tortured end.

Allen has had a mixed decade. He's had great films like Manhattan Murder Mystery, Bullets Over Broadway and Small Time Crooks. He's also had his share of rubbish: Deconstructing Harry and Celebrity. Perhaps he should stop making one film a year, and instead take time to write one last good one. Allen is 66 years old, and the only thing harder to swallow than his 30-something female co-stars is the thought that an icon of American cinema is quickly becoming little more than a hack, and wasting good actors in the process.

Woody, please, prove us wrong!

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