Review: Small Time Crooks

Woody Allen has grown up a lot since Take the Money and Run and it shows.

Small Time Crooks
Photo: DreamWorks Pictures

Woody Allen has grown up a lot since Take the Money and Run and it shows. His days of channeling Bergman into his highbrow urbanite dramas may have come to an end. Woody Allen returns to his caper roots With Small Time Crooks. Allen goes slumming as Ray Winkler, a petty crook with dreams of robbing a bank. After Celebrity and the revolting Deconstructing Harry, this lightweight caper is a welcomed change of pace though Small Time Crooks reveals itself to be as silly and inconsequential as, well, Take the Money and Run. Ray and his wife Frenchie (Tracey Ullman) live simple and dream big. Allen ridiculously overplays Ray’s gauche proclivities and sexist demeanor in order to emphasize the character’s disgust for his wife. Frenchie bakes cookies while Ray hatches up a plan to rob a bank by buying a company two buildings next door. While Ray and his gang of crooks dig their way into the bank, Frenchie and her cousin May (Elaine May) sell cookies as a front. The criminals fail to rob the bank but Frenchie manages to turn the cookie shop into a multi-million dollar industry. It’s a cute turn of events and Small Time Crooks could have easily ended as soon as Steve Kroft hosts a documentary on Winklers’s success. Ray and Frenchie move to the Upper East Side and try to fit in among the social elite. Hugh Grant stars as an art dealer who tries to mold Frenchie into a cultured woman while trying to get inside her wallet. Bullets Over Broadway this ain’t though Small Time Crooks should be seen for the great Elaine May’s runaway performance. During the film’s funniest sequence, May tries to divert attention from Ray by running at the mouth about the weather to a group of partygoers.

 Cast: Woody Allen, Tracy Ullman, Michael Rapaport, Elaine May, Jon Lovitz, Hugh Grant, Tony Darrow  Director: Woody Allen  Screenwriter: Woody Allen  Distributor: DreamWorks Pictures  Running Time: 94 min  Rating: PG  Year: 2000  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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