Small Time Crooks

Sure to be hailed as a return to Allen's filmmaking heyday — when he made "the early, funny ones," as an admirer remarks in STARDUST MEMORIES — this thin, clichéd comedy of crime and social climbing packs a lot of padding around its laughs. Frenchie Winkler (Tracey Ullman) has laid down the law to husband Ray (Allen): No more crime — she...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Sure to be hailed as a return to Allen's filmmaking heyday — when he made "the early, funny ones," as an admirer remarks in STARDUST MEMORIES — this thin, clichéd comedy of crime and social climbing packs a lot of padding around its laughs. Frenchie Winkler (Tracey Ullman) has laid down the law to husband Ray (Allen): No more crime — she doesn't want to spend another anniversary looking at Ray through a plate of glass. But Ray and his half-witted buddies Tommy (Tony Darrow) and Denny (Michael Rapaport) have a great plan. There's this pizza parlor for rent, two storefronts down from a bank; if they rent the place they can tunnel into the bank vault from the basement. Frenchie, meanwhile, will divert suspicion by pretending to run some kind of business upstairs. The irony, of course, is that the gang that couldn't dig straight tunnels into a dress shop, while Frenchie's slapdash cookie business explodes; a year later all involved are rich beyond their wildest dreams. But wealth doesn't buy happiness; the Winklers are treated like tacky parvenus and their marriage is sorely strained by Frenchie's clueless attempts to improve herself. Most of the comedy is wrung from Ray's endless kvetching and Frenchie's pretenses: her attempt to broaden her vocabulary by memorizing the dictionary (she only gets through the As), her conversion to wine snobbery, her attempts to cultivate a cultured and sophisticated social circle. The movie feels tired and logy, but Allen assembles his usually stellar cast — including Elaine Stritch as a daffy socialite, Hugh Grant as a sleek cad, Elaine May as Frenchie's dumb-bunny cousin and Jon Lovitz as a habitual arsonist — who do their best to drag it out of its doldrums.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: Sure to be hailed as a return to Allen's filmmaking heyday — when he made "the early, funny ones," as an admirer remarks in STARDUST MEMORIES — this thin, clichéd comedy of crime and social climbing packs a lot of padding around its laughs. Frenc… (more)

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