Retro Review: Small Time Crooks

Woody Allen’s first film for Dreamworks. Will it bring the magic back to the film veteran?

Woody Allen’s “Small Time Crooks” tells the story about ex-con dishwasher Ray Winkler (Woody Allen), who has dreams of taking his ex-stripper wife, Frenchie (Tracey Ullman) to Florida and escape their dismal New York life. His dream lies in a bank heist where the plan is to burrow into the bank from their cookie shop. What Ray doesn’t realize is that his wife’s cookies are the biggest thing to hit New York since Starbuck’s. Thus making them rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Woody Allen has always been famous for his brilliant delivery of intelligent scripts and dialogue. He is sought after by a lot of Hollywood’s elite as their dream to work with. “Small Time Crooks” to put it plainly isn’t an example to his brilliance. Its pretty straight forward and predictable as the film takes its course.

The set-up building up to their cookie empire is vintage Allen but it seems as soon as they are covered with riches we don’t care for the characters of the mindless banters they have. Many scenes for me were bland and never really delivered the comedy I have so loved in other Allen pictures. I would have liked to have seen these characters struggle through the bank heist and cleverly found a way to make it all work.

As soon as the ultra-dumb character played by Michael Rappaort left the scene and was replaced by British schemer Hugh Grant, the film dropped its comedic edge. Hugh Grant’s shrewdness covered by his unique grin was reminiscent of the scoundrel he played in the “Awfully Big Adventure” and were his most memorable villains. Also what happened to Jon Lovitz?

Allen’s crook buddies were what made the film funny. The whole heist and the water main eruption were the funniest moments of the film and it was never fully used.

“Crooks” desperately needed a hilarious third act but instead left us with a somber note. That’s a real shame.

(2.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer

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