Reviewed by: Halyna Barannik
|Featuring:||Tracey Ullman, Hugh Grant, Jon Lovitz, Woody Allen, Tony Darrow|
|Producer:||Jean Doumanian, Woody Allen|
Oddly enough, Woody Allen’s 2000-release movie, “Small Time Crooks”, is actually about how crime does not pay. Secular reviews have been mixed, depending on how one feels about Mr. Allen’s personality, which is abundant in this movie. However, this movie has a character which for me was the funniest character I have ever seen on screen, and so for that reason, and my love of comedies in general, I don’t regret paying for the ticket.
Woody Allen plays Ray, an ex-con who has been trying to live an upright life with his hardworking, eccentric wife Francis “Frenchy,” played hilariously by Tracey Ullman. Ray decides he is tired of being poor and is itching to rob a bank. He and some cronies of his from jail, Denny (Michael Rapaport) and Tommy (Tony Darrow), have decided to buy a little pizza place and use it as a front while they dig their way to a neighboring bank. But the place has just been purchased by another ex-con friend of theirs, Benny (Jon Lovitz), so they include him in their scheme. While they are digging, Frenchy bakes cookies, and develops a successful business, with the help of her cousin May, played so hysterically by Elaine May, that she makes Gracie Allen look serious. The silliness of this performance had me smiling for the rest of the day and will continue to be one of my all-time favorite performances. Elaine May took good lines and made them spectacular.
Back at the dig, things don’t go as planned. Ray and Frenchy end up making money a legitimate way, and end up being filthy rich. Frenchy hires an elegant and sophisticated fellow named David (Hugh Grant) to help her learn the finer things in life. Ray hangs out with May, who, I repeat, had me in stitches. The plot takes a twist that eventually brings the conclusion that crime simply doesn’t pay.
You need to be able to tolerate Woody Allen doing his schtick, and if you don’t know what that is, “Small Time Crooks” gives it to you in large doses. If the crooks succeeded, I might not recommend this movie, despite the comedy. I got a little weary of the Woody Allen schlemiel. But coupling Elaine May and Tracey Ullman with the morally acceptable conclusion to the story makes it possible to recommend it. Hopefully, you will enjoy Elaine May as much as I did.