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Small Time Crooks  

Directed By: Woody Allen Starring: Woody Allen, Tracey Ullman,Hugh Grant, Jon Lovitz, Michael Rapaport, Tony Darrow, George Grizzard, Elaine May, Elaine Stritch Rated: PG (Language) Running Time: 95 Min.

Small Time Crooks
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Woody Allen's new film, Small Time Crooks, takes place in New York City (surprise!), and begins as an inspired screwball comedy about a planned bank heist. However, 20 minutes in it does an about-face, and gives us a rather uninspired rags to riches story instead. It seems as though Woody had a couple of good story ideas, the better of the two being the bank heist, and combined them into one movie.

To my dismay, Small Time Crooks leaves the heist idea all too soon, never to return. After a while, even the supporting characters from the heist idea become reduced to little more than glorified extras, as the rags to riches plotline takes over. Fortunately, Tracey Ullman, who plays Woody's wife, Frenchy, becomes the central character in this new story.

Ullman is fantastic, and its worth seeing the film just for her performance. Woody is, as always, Woody, and the chemistry between the two is almost enough to keep the story alive.

Another good performance in the film is given by Elaine May, who plays her character at about the same intellectual level as Gracie Allen would. (For those who have no idea who Gracie Allen is, substitute Pheobe from "Friends" instead... then go learn about Gracie Allen!) Elaine's character has many amusing one-liners based mostly on the idea that she misunderstands nearly anything said to her.

One thing I really like about Woody Allen's work is that he never fails to give his supporting cast most of the best lines. He also likes to throw opposites together, just to see what happens - the rich with the poor, the smart with the ignorant, the cultured with the classless - and Small Time Crooks has a lot of fun pitting those opposites against each other.

This is not Woody Allen at his best, but it's not his worst either. There are plenty of great comic moments and some good diologue as well. If you are a die hard Woody Allen fan, or a fan of Tracey Ullman, then Small Time Crooks is worth seeing. If you're not, then give Small Time Crooks a pass, and go rent Woody's crime classic Take The Money and Run instead.

Allen J. Vestal

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