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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 EricDSnider

"Charming, inconsequential Allen."
4 stars

Woody Allen has made a career of doing films that critics love and audiences ignore. For the first time in a quarter-century, he may finally have a popular success with "Small Time Crooks," by far his most accessible, pleasant comedy in years.

Allen plays Ray, a middle-aged schlub in New York with a menial job and a checkered past: He used to be an inept criminal, and he did some time. His wife, Frenchy (Tracey Ullman), loves him all the same, and they have a "Honeymooners" relationship, constantly bickering ("Always with the wise-cracks!" Ray says of his wife) in that endearing New York way we're so fond of.

Ray comes up with a scheme to get them out of New York and down to Florida (the promised land for Manhattan Jews, apparently). There's a vacant store two doors down from a bank. Ray proposes they buy the building and open some phony business as a front while Ray and some of his dim-bulb buddies secretly dig a tunnel into the bank from the basement.

The phony business? Well, Frenchy's pretty good at baking cookies, so they go with that. Ray and his pals prove to be just as useless at digging tunnels as they were at committing crimes, and the bank heist is a disaster. In the meantime, though, Frenchy's cookies have become extremely popular, and the movie flashes forward one year, when Sunset Cookies is a Fortune 500 conglomerate, with franchises all over the country, and Ray and Frenchy are incredibly rich.

The rest of the film deals with that scenario. They suddenly have what they supposedly always wanted, and they're hobnobbing with the elite. They soon learn, however, that there's a difference between wealth and sophistication. They're richer than anyone at the parties they go to, but they don't know squat about high culture.

Ray doesn't care. He just wants to be a regular guy again. Frenchy, though, enlists the aid of snooty art salesman David (Hugh Grant) to teach her about art, opera and culture. ("I want to learn how to spell Connecticut," Ray says, completely disinterested in Frenchy's ambitions.) David, though, may have ulterior motives in regards to Frenchy's money.

This is a whimsical, light-hearted movie, with almost no point whatsoever. A comparison was made earlier to "The Honeymooners," and in truth, it plays out like a long episode of that show. Ralph has a get-rich-quick scheme, it doesn't work, Alice rescues him, they try to be something they're not, and they eventually realize they've made a mistake and everything goes back to normal. There are a few twists along the way, but that's essentially it.

It's a little unfortunate mid-way through the movie, when Ray's friends disappear from the scene. Played by Tony Darrow, Michael Rappaport, George Grizzard and Jon Lovitz, they're a fabulous bunch of losers and imbeciles. Their absence, however, is compensated for by the presence of Frenchy's cousin May (Elaine May), a fantastically dense woman who just might be the most endearing character in the film. She's certainly the funniest, stealing many a scene right out from under Woody Allen, which is no small feat.

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originally posted: 07/06/03 19:56:57
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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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