Small Time Crooks


Sunnier shores. Frenchy and Ray (Ullman and Allen) dream of a better life ... but aren't prepared for it when it arrives.
dir-scr Woody Allen
with Woody Allen, Tracey Ullman, Hugh Grant, Elaine May, Michael Rapaport, Tony Darrow, Jon Lovitz, Elaine Stritch, George Grizzard, Brian McConnachie, Kristine Nielsen, Larry Pine
00/US 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
This year's Woody Allen is a light-hearted society comedy about lowlifes trying to make it among the establishment. With Allen's trademark droll dialog and hilarious performances from a very gifted cast, it's a thoroughly enjoyable romp, even if there's not much to it, really.

Ray (Allen) is a small time crook with delusions of grandeur. When he plans a complex bank heist, his wife Frenchy (Ullman) laughs in his face, but goes along with it anyway. The plan is hopeless from the start, but they soon strike it incredibly rich in an unexpected way. Now Ray feels like an outsider in high society, while Frenchy hires the sophisticated David (Grant) to coach her in the ways of the rich and tasteful. But David only has one thing on his mind: Frenchy's money.

The layers of morality add a bit of a bite to this fluffy farce. Allen is great at capturing real human motives and aspirations in his films. But this is really just a silly comedy full of over-the-top tastelessness (namely the way Frenchy dresses and decorates their new home). Ullman is terrific in the role, which uses her comedic gifts without requiring too much effort. And the same could be said of Allen--he does write these things for himself, after all, and he plays it perfectly. There are some classically hilarious sequences, and the whole things is jammed with wonderfully funny characters and one-liners. So even if it's not one of Allen's better efforts, it's still great fun.

[PG--themes, language] 26.Oct.00
US release 19.May.00; UK release 1.Dec.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall