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This week:

Curse of the Jade Scorpion

Filthy says:

Usually I try to crack a few jokes here, tell a few stories and sucker people into coming back so I can eventually make a shitload of money advertising tiny spy cameras to install in bathrooms so you can jerk off while watching unsuspecting people wash their genitals. But, it's hard for me to joke when as giant and mediocre a talent as Aaliyah just got burned to a crisp in a plane crash.

Oh, the fucking humanity. Here was a young woman who, by every measure, appeared to be well on her way to a blockbuster career compromising her talent and beliefs for the sake of record sales. And now, tragically, she's dead and all we'll have to remember her by is several upcoming slapped-together albums, shitty movies, and Entertainment Tonight, Entertainment Weekly, and Entertainment My Ass tributes that get high ratings. Let me be the first to say that the loss of Aaliyah is devastating. Where in the world will we ever find another moderately attractive young woman who is willing to bare her belly, sell herself as a sex symbol and sing generic R&B? There is no amount of montages, hype or over-exaggeration of her ability and importance that will adequately capture her mediocrity. Just watch the media try.

But, Aaliyah has gone to rock-and-roll heaven, where she will forever live with the other mediocre plane-crash rock stars: the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and those rednecks from Lynyrd Skynyrd. hers was a dim flame that burned out quickly, like one of Mrs. Filthy's aromatherapy candles from K-Mart.

In the grand scheme of things, is it better to suck for a short time and flame out, or to burn long and bright, a candle people can rely on, until you choose to go dim and anyone who relied on you can go fuck himself? I don't know the answer, but I do know that Woody Allen has gone dim. Curse of the Jade Scorpion is his latest half-hearted comedy: it's decent, mildly amusing, but hard to like because it's such a fucking half-hearted effort. I still don't understand why anyone given the chance to make movies wouldn't try very hard. I guess it happens when people begin to think they're fucking great and everything they do is incredible. This is why we must continue to tell our celebrities they are assholes and worthless.

A lot of old people retire from their careers, recognizing their talent is diminished and they're no longer interested in what they did for the last forty years. They burn off the end of their days working at a fast food joint making Whoppers and shaking their heads at those crazy young people and their rock and roll music. Woody Allen's an old fucking guy, but rather than retire, he just keeps plugging along at a diminished rate. The sad thing is, even at half-speed the old shit is better than most of the turds this summer.

In Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Allen plays an early-1940s insurance investigator at odds with the efficiency expert (the disturbing Helen Hunt) his boss has hired to streamline the company and screw him like a cockeyed lightbulb. She threatens to farm his job out to private dicks. Hunt and Allen are at each other's throats -- and exchange what might have been witty barbs with a couple more polishes of the script ­ until one night when they are hypnotized in a nightclub to believe they're madly in love. The hypnotist keeps them under the trance and later uses them to burglarize their own wealthy insurance clients. But whenever they are under the hypnotist's power, they also return to thinking they're in love.

The movie is long, too long. It's a god damn comedy with no message, why the fuck does it need to be nearly two hours long? The first hour is especially padded. Woody, we know you're zhlub character already so don't spend so fucking long introducing him. The second hour picks up as the caper kicks in and the plot gets a little more involved.

And Allen is funny. Maybe you disagree, but I don't really fucking care because this column is about my opinion. Most of the jokes here are musty, and stale, the kind that my dad tells for free, but Allen's timing is perfect. The old little bastard knows how to surprise you with even what you're expecting. And once he has some plot to work with, he weaves it well.

But the script is sounds like the first draft written in a drunken haze. The dialog is sloppy and awkward and the bad gags go on too long. There was a time when Woody's words sounded natural, but here he has characters tripping over themselves to get to awkward punchlines like the Loyal Order of Moose after a fresh keg. It's a matter of not polishing the script.

It's sort of a clever plot. Not overly, though, because stories that turn on hypnotism or amnesia are almost always the tacky and cheap inventions of screenwriters and studios to discover that these devices get used more than a French tickler in a Tijuana whorehouse. It's so fucking easy to say "this character has amnesia (been hypnotized) and now he must remember" That Allen is an investigator trying to track himself down is funny, but it's not really the thrust of the story. I would love to see a comedy about a guy tracking himself down, but instead we get way too much "romantic" face time with that vulture-creature Hunt.

Helen Hunt is a predatory bird, all claws, pointy beak and beady eyes. Caw caw caw! She strikes me as cold and tight, the kind of woman Dipshit Suzanne admired for being strong when what she actually is is selfish. They keep giving hunt these romantic leads, but to me she's about as romantic as the disemboweled squirrel she probably had for lunch.

I've seen a lot of people make a big deal out of Hunt and Allen's age difference, but it didn't bother me nearly as much as my fear that she would mistake his limp, weak body for road kill and devour him. There's no chemistry, just lame back-and-forth sniping unsuitable for old episodes of the "Bickersons." Hunt also has a running gag where she warns Allen in great detail not to die by accident at the end of each encounter. It's the sort of shit that sits on the screen like the apple cobbler in the steam trays at the Country Buffet: untouched and stale.

Charlize Theron once again proves that she's as clueless as Floyd, my retard cousin Larry's roommate at the Home. Like Floyd, Theron is always surprised by what comes out of her mouth, and the inflection is always wrong. I'd be about as willing to let her deliver a joke as I would give Floyd my car keys. But, here she is, fucking up a bunch of screens as a potboiler sexpot. I think she's supposed to be straight from the pages of a Raymond Chandler novel, but those chicks were fucking hot. Theron's just annoying. At least she doesn't attempt any lousy accents.

I'm giving Three Fingers to Curse of the Jade Scorpion. I know that's probably too generous, and I'm rewarding mediocrity, but that's what kind of guy I am, a fucking saint.

Got 12 minutes? Check out my writing and acting debut, Presto, P.I. Don't worry, it's free.

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