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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.41%
Worth A Look45.59%
Average: 44.12%
Pretty Bad: 2.94%
Total Crap: 2.94%

6 reviews, 32 user ratings

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Small Time Crooks
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by Scott Weinberg

"A welcome return to the Woody of old."
4 stars

First off, Woody's the best. He's his own guy. Could you actually picture a studio executive trying to change something in his movies? He's an indie filmmaker with as much clout as Spielberg. Actors climb over each other to get 5 lines in his movies. Whether or not you enjoy a particular film of his, you have to respect that the movies he makes are HIS. It just so happens that his last few haven't been received so well. So this time, he makes with the haha, and the result is a hugely entertaining movie.

Like most movie fans at one time or another, I went through my Woody Allen phase and rented all his movies over a month. (Yes, even Interiors.) Annie Hall was what started it for me, and I list that, Love and Death, Hannah and her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors as some of my favorite films. When Woody veered into self-reflective dramatics in the eighties, fans and critics alike were of one mind: "I like his earlier, funnier stuff." And while I agree with that statement, his body of work is all the more impressive for the chances he's taken.

If the last few years have seen Woody less successful commercially (Celebrity, Deconstructing Harry, Sweet and Lowdown), that's not really the point. This guy puts out a movie every single YEAR. He's a machine. And yeah, maybe all the angst and venom he's been tossing around recently isn't his best work ever, but there's still more intelligence, originality and truth in his movies than almost any American filmmaker.

So he's switching gears again back to high comedy. (I note the difference because I think that even his most dramatic films are instilled with sold doses of humor.) While some may think he's playing it safe by going back to the slapsticky stuff, I think it may be just the opposite. IF Small Time Crooks was a failure, it could be an indication that he's lost that skill, that maybe he used up all his good gags or something. I'm pleased to say this is NOT the case, as Small Time Crooks is a smooth, breezy and extremely enjoyable comedy.

Ray and Frenchy are married and poor. Ray proposes a terrible heist plan, which doesn't improve when he enlists two idiots and an arsonist to help him. This gang goes about an elaborate bank robbery scheme, only to be halted by a wonderfully bizarre plot twist. After Frenchy's idiot cousin May ruins the heist, our heroes stumble onto a fortune.

Woody's script is tight, light and even quite touching on occasion. He creates strong characters and can play one-liners like Eddie Van Halen plays guitar. The sheer unpredictability of the movie is worth the trip, but there are several laugh-out-loud scenes and nothing goes on too long. And while most of the comedy here is intentionally broad or even silly, Woody takes a few gentle jabs at the nouveau riche and the corrupting power of wealth. (As Woody tries to impress the cultural elite: "You like that rug? It lights up.")

In the lead role, Woody is simply himself, only older. Tracey Ullman is wonderful as Frenchy. Also on hand for some great laughs are Michael Rapaport, Elaine May, Tony Darrow, Hugh Grant and Jon Lovitz. As is often the case in Woody's movies, everyone gets a few scenes to stand out, while no one character overtakes the movie.

Even for non-Woody fans, I can wholeheartedly recommend this one. It's so strong that it may even win over some newer (younger!) fans who may want to look for more of his comedies. And while I'll always celebrate Woody Allen for being original and his own filmmaker, I also prefer the funnier ones. Welcome back.

You get your silly situations, quick one-liners and enjoyable characters, only infused with the trademark Woody neuroses and smart mouth. It's worth seeing for the wildly unpredictable plot, but it's also one of the funniest movies of the year. What most writers sweat over, Woody can seemingly do in his sleep. I'm looking forward to his next year's offering already.

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originally posted: 05/31/00 02:35:41
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User Comments

5/29/09 mr.mike Ullman and May made the movie. 4 stars
11/23/08 Samantha Pruitt a light comedy, pretty funny still, woody does a lot of physical comedy 4 stars
9/10/06 DK amusing but hardly memorable. watched it last week and already it has escaped me! 3 stars
9/08/05 Phil M. Aficionado Like the glass necklace, it sparkles for a while but doesn't hold up 3 stars
4/26/05 Indrid Cold Almost interchangeable with "Jade Scorpion"; very bland and unfunny. 3 stars
11/27/04 HL Occassional dose of Woody can't be bad! 4 stars
9/29/03 JohnnyXXX I've seen this movie a dozen times. Tracy Ullman is awesome!!! 5 stars
9/27/03 Ingo Truly funny - and it looks soo easy... 4 stars
7/07/03 Jack Sommersby Woody should do 1 good film every 2 yrs. instead of a subpar one every year. 2 stars
6/18/03 Andrew Callaway Less than average for Woody Allen. 3 stars
4/19/03 Ubu the Ripper A little better than Jade Scorpion. 4 stars
9/03/02 AshFan The beginning is so funny, it doesn't matter that the rest is kinda bad. 4 stars
7/22/02 spyguy2 Couple of laughs...Ullman is really good, Allen stretching a little but not much. 3 stars
1/02/02 Andrew Carden Nothing Like An "Allen" Film. Unfunny and Totally Mindless. 1 stars
11/02/01 Hum fun, but nothing special 3 stars
7/31/01 Elvisfan Enough funny lines/actors/situations for six movies..nice return to fun, Woody! 5 stars
3/08/01 Trashstar Provided a quiet chuckle here and there. 3 stars
2/21/01 Pierce Lanson Some very funny bits, good lines, loved Elaine May 4 stars
1/06/01 tnt enjoyable...far from his best though 3 stars
12/29/00 The Bomb 69 funny stuff, Elaine May was amazing and I laughed throughout 4 stars
12/28/00 Monday Morning Frothy but funny. The Wood-man's reactions & expressions are A-1. 4 stars
7/07/00 Politicsman Recalls Bananas and Take The Money & Run. But the cookie thing was done by Albert Brooks! 4 stars
6/13/00 DAVID Bettter than last Allen's film. This movie looses its comedy after the first 25 mins 4 stars
6/01/00 PJ I'm sorry but Woody Allen cannot go wrong, this movie was funny as hell, and Elaine May wow 4 stars
5/30/00 Zatoichi Jones Cute and funny. 3 stars
5/29/00 I found this film irritating and stupid. Woody was annoyingly nervous and contrived. 2 stars
5/27/00 PhilmPhreak Woody Allen should NOT have been in this movie. 3 stars
5/25/00 Heather Very funny movie, full of great one-liners 5 stars
5/25/00 tom rush horrible 1 stars
5/21/00 Captain Highcrime Woody Allen is NO Jackie Gleason, dammit. 3 stars
5/21/00 john c smith light , no big deal ... fun 4 stars
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  19-May-2000 (PG)


  25-Jan-2001 (M)

Directed by
  Woody Allen

Written by
  Woody Allen

  Woody Allen
  Hugh Grant
  Jon Lovitz
  Michael Rapaport
  George Grizzard
  Tracey Ullman

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