At this point, it’s clear that Woody Allen is a walking period piece, but what period? Longtime followers probably associate the writer-director with the ’60s and ’70s, the age of free love, irreverent humor, and the peak of influence of such Allen favorites as Bergman and Fellini. Lately, though, Allen has been setting his films in the ’30s and ’40s, the era of his beloved old-timey jazz but also a haven from the scandalized present, which inspired the acid-reflux semiautobiography of films such as Mighty Aphrodite and Deconstructing Harry. In The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, the year is 1940, allowing Allen’s character—insurance investigator C.W. Briggs—to make weak cracks about Hitler and Picasso and Allen the writer-director to prolong (but never exactly develop) a comic motif about taking a trip to Paris. The story combines an antique pulp/serial premise—Briggs is hypnotized into becoming a jewel thief—with a romantic conflict suitable for a Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy vehicle: Briggs loathes Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt), a tart-talking efficiency expert who’s dallying with the company’s owner (Dan Aykroyd), but the two are just forestalling the moment when they recognize that they’re soul mates. “You are too old for me,” Fitzgerald sensibly tells Briggs, but at least Allen didn’t pair himself with either of the two younger actresses he cast mostly for decoration, Elizabeth Berkley and Charlize Theron. (In fact, one of the gags is that Briggs, while under a spell, abandons Theron’s character while she’s waiting for him in bed.) To keep costs down, the movie was shot mostly in a handful of interiors, which means that the performers and the dialogue have to do most of the work; the former try hard, but the latter wouldn’t draw laughs from an audience that had been hypnotized into believing that Allen’s movies are still funny. —Mark Jenkins