Small Time Crooks Movie Review

Woody Allen slides comfortably back into screwball mode directing himself as an incompetent bank robber dreaming up an absurdly arduous heist in "Small Time Crooks," his first movie in a long time unabashedly about nothing deeper than non-stop laughs.

Allen plays ex-con (and current dishwasher) Ray Winkler, the dubious mastermind behind a plan to rent an empty pizza joint two doors down from a Manhattan bank, then tunnel from the restaurant's basement to the bank's vault and make off with millions.

But Ray and his band of deficient ne'er-do-wells (Michael Rapaport, Jon Lovitz and Tony Darrow) need a front to occupy the shop while they burrow below. So he cajoles his manicurist wife Frenchy (Tracey Ullman) into opening a cookie shop in the empty storefront -- despite the fact that she thinks Ray's buddies, and their plans, are moronic.

"They never completed kindergarten because they were drafted," she harps, in her funniest ever film performance.

The story of these bozo burglars is divided into halves:

Part one is the inevitably bungled robbery, which starts going wrong from the very first swing of the pickax in the cookie shop basement (Woody hits a water main and floods the place).

Part two takes up two years later, when Ray and Frenchy have become multimillionaires -- by running a giant cookie conglomerate born of Frenchy's surprise knack for sweets while Ray and his half-wit crew were inadvertently breaking into a dress shop on the other side of the cookie store.

Desperate to mix with high society, gaudy Frenchy (call her Francine now, please) -- who has decorated their new Park Avenue digs in animal prints and gold leaf -- hires a snooty art broker (Hugh Grant) to teach her some class. Good luck.

Meanwhile, Ray is miserable. He mopes around in his bright blue blazers, green silk shirts and yellow pants picked out by his wife, drinking Pepsi from wine glasses, eating Cracker Jacks from silver bowls, watching basketball on TV and pining for his glory days as a low-life failure.

Not content just coasting on the obvious gags inherent in the Keystone crooks and bogus bourgeoisie circumstances, as writer, director and actor Allen milks "Small Time Crooks" for every conceivable laugh.

It's ripe with zingers for most of the great cast -- other players include Elaine May as Ullman's lisping, simpleton sister and Elaine Stritch as an uptown dowager with a priceless necklace Ray aches to boost. But what makes this movie Grade A Woody Allen fare is the verbal sparring inspired by Ullman, who is his best female foil since Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall." Frenchy and Ray go at it like welterweight "Honeymooners," bickering with such aplomb that just the way they glare at each other is hilarious. Funniest of all is wimpy Allen feigning an abusive husband schtick:

"Frenchy, I'm gonna get violent!"

"What, with your hernia?"

The first movie Woody Allen ever directed was 1969's "Take the Money and Run," also a slapstick comedy in which he played a would-be bank robber. "Small Time Crooks" is a testament to the fact that after 31 years and 31 movies (37 if you count pictures in which he only acted), he's still got the touch.


Comments

Small Time Crooks Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG, Opened: Friday, May 19, 2000

Advertisement

Editors Recommendations

The Fifty Shades of Grey Movie Trailer Is Here: Was It Worth The Wait?

The moment Fifty Shades of Grey fans have been waiting for is finally...

The Fifty Shades of Grey Movie Trailer Is Here: Was It Worth The Wait?

Alec Baldwin (Mostly) Off The Hook On Disorderly Conduct Charges

Alec Baldwin was in court on Tuesday, facing charges of disorderly...

Alec Baldwin (Mostly) Off The Hook On Disorderly Conduct Charges

Pitbull feat. John Ryan - Fireball

Pitbull drops his eighth studio album 'Globalization' later this year and...

Pitbull - Fireball Video

The British Film Institute: 'There Are Too Many Films'

The BFI have condemned the amount of films released in British cinemas...

The British Film Institute: 'There Are Too Many Films'

What The Critics Are Saying About Scarlett Johansson's 'Lucy'

Early reviews of Scarlett Johansson’s new movie Lucy are piling up...

What The Critics Are Saying About Scarlett Johansson's 'Lucy'

Dwayne Johnson Battles His Way Through Non-Stop Absurdity In "Hercules"

It’s Hercules time! So we know that Dwayne Johnson made a lot...

Dwayne Johnson Battles His Way Through Non-Stop Absurdity In
Advertisement

Arty Ft. Angel Taylor - Up All Night [Lyric] Video

Russian musician Arty has collaborated with Angel Taylor on his latest single 'Up All Night', released on...

Arty - Up All Night (Lyric Video) Video

Those Colin Farrell for 'Iron Man 4' Rumors Refuse To Die

Rumors are abound that seminal Iron Man actor, Robert Downey Jr, will not be...

Those Colin Farrell for 'Iron Man 4' Rumors Refuse To Die

Marvel Announces Release Date for Unknown Movie - What Could It Be?

Last week Marvel studios took the unusual step of announcing five upcoming...

Marvel Announces Release Date for Unknown Movie - What Could It Be?


More recommendations

Advertisement