Starring: Woody Allen, Tracy Ullman, Michael Rapaport, Tony Darrow, Jon Lovitz
Director: Woody Allen
Woody Allen is Ray Winkler, bungling crook who has pushed his wife Frenchie (Ullman) to the limit by spending too much time behind bars. Despite promising to go straight, he cooks up a ludicrous plan to rob a bank by purchasing a premises two doors down from it and tunneling underneath and into the bank vault. In keeping with the uselessness of the idea, he brings in cohorts Denny (Rapaport), Benny (Lovitz) and Tommy (Darrow) to help him dig, while Frenchie runs a cookie business upstairs as a front. But while the tunnelling goes wrong, Frenchie’s cookie business takes off and within a year the motley crew become millionaires.
Despite all the money, Ray and Frenchie still don’t have any class and struggle to fit in with the more affluent people that their success and fame has brought them in contact with. Wanting to fulfill her pretentions as one of the rich and famous, Frenchie befriends suave art dealer David (Grant), while Ray prefers to eat take out and watch old movies. Understandably, Ray and Frenchie grow apart as each finds someone they think is more suited to them. But behind it all love is stronger than money as they are to find out.
If I were to sum up the theme of “Small Time Crooks” in one sound bite, it would be “money is not everything”. There’s more to it than that, but the central theme is one that crops up again and again. Frenchie does her best to fit in to the rich ensemble she rubs shoulders with, her penchant for fine wines and thick books in stark contrast to Ray’s awkward suits and fondness for 12-inch super deluxe with anchovies.
Woody plays the neurotic fish-out-of-water with usual aplomb and even after 30 years it still has not gotten boring. Ullman is surprisingly entertaining as his inflated wife who cannot accept that money has not made her happy. Woody’s gang of crooks (Rapaport, Darrow, Lovitz) are hilarious. Jon Lovitz is one man I think gets a raw deal ? his look and delivery are becoming of a very funny man. When asked by Ray Winkler why he wants to burn down the premises that he just bought, Benny (Lovitz) replies “I burn everything. It put two kids through college”.
Although it does lag a little in the middle, “Small Time Crooks” is a winner thanks to the hilarious script, entertaining performances and worthy, if predictable, moral.