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Small Time Crooks

review by Zach B.

 

Rated PG

Studio: Dreamworks

Running Time: 95 minutes

Starring Woody Allen, Tony Darrow, Hugh Grant, Jon Lovitz, Elaine May, Michael Rappaport, Tracey Ullman

Written and Directed by Woody Allen

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: Theatrical Trailer, Production Notes, Cast and Crew Bios

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital Mono, English Subtitles, Chapter Search (28 Chapters)

Last summer, Woody Allen released one of his biggest success. The film was "Small Time Crooks", and garnered some mixed reviews but a healthy 20 million at the box office. While we know the Woodster's films cost nothing to make (and the actors do it for nothing, just for the honor of them being in a Woody Allen film), the other notable thing about "Small Time Crooks" was that it was a tendency toward Allen's better and earlier works. Not a drama, but more of a loose comedy. The only problem is though that "Small Time Crooks" is a big disappointment. After seeing TV spots and the trailer, I was really looking foward to this film, as it did look hilarious. However, I was kinda of upset that this was all false advertising.

Anyhow, the movie is about Ray and Frenchy "Frances Fox" Winkler, a poor couple who are looking for ways to increase their cash flow, as they're tired of their simple, struggling life. So, after convincing, Ray comes up with a plan with some friends to rob a bank. The heist involves them taking a shop a few doors down from the bank, and digging under to go up to the bank and rob it there. Of course, they need someone to cover for them, which is where Frenchy comes into play. She bakes cookies, and they become famous, as the bank robbery goes awry and they make a ton of cash on the business. So, Ray and Frenchy begin to live the high life, but they slowly learn they were much better off as themselves and people when they were cooped up in a tiny apartment with hardly any money. The couple begin to go their seperate ways and whatnot, leading to a climax involving a necklace which I found to be not as good as one may hope to be.

First things first, as I walked into this movie thinking it would be about a bank heist the whole way through, it's not. That part only lasts the first half hour. And then a wonderful five minutes "60 Minutes" expose on the cookie company, Sunshine Farms. After that, it's all downhill. However, those first thirty five minutes are incredibly well executed. There are some great and wonderful lines, and the acting and chemistry between the characters are great. Too bad the rest of the movie didn't live up to that, because Allen's whole commentary on high society got old really fast, and the plot became boring, recycled and sort of stupid.

What I also didn't like is how Allen doesn't use his cast to full potential. Darrow, Rappaport (who's hilarious) and Lovitz as Allen's scheming friends are just used for the heist, the 60 Minutes part and one scene after. I was really disappointed in that, because all three are funny, and I am a big Jon Lovitz fan. However, Tracey Ullman as Frenchy saves the movie in a way. She was born to play her, as Ullman puts on a perfect accent and really captures who Frenchy is. Ullman is the soul of the movie basically, and she's simply fantastic and worthy of many awards for her performance.

Many can argue that from the mid 90s on, Allen's film have been a bit lacking. They didn't capture the same attention as they used to, and some didn't recieve so many high marks either. Still, Allen shows that he can make a light comedy comeback with "Small Time Crooks". While he's not all there yet due to the uneven story, he's on the right track, and I look foward to his future films.

 

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, "Small Time Crooks" looks very good. I didn't notice any grain, blemishes or scratches, but there is some slight chroma noise and digital artifacting, as well as some shimmer. Still, the colors and hues are well presented and it looks quite pristine. Another nice transfer from Dreamworks.

As we all know, Allen likes his film in mono. Besides, I doubt "Small Time Crooks" could have used any surrounds... except maybe with some music and the explosion during the bank heist. Anyhow, I did find the sound to be a bit low, still, nothing overpowered anything and it was quite clear.

Of course, Allen hates extras as well. Here we get the Theatrical Trailer in widescreen with two channel mono (!), as well as some lengthy and well written Production Notes (Allen even shares some insight on the film, these notes are included in the inside insert too) plus Cast and Crew Bios. Oddly enough, Allen doesn't have a bio but only a filmography, but for everyone else you'll find nice detailed bios and filmographies.

I felt this movie was one of the biggest disappointments of the year 2000, but Dreamworks delivers a nice DVD package with some good mono audio and a spiffy transfer. Still, for 26.99 retails, it's a bit of a toss up. Die hard fans only.

(3/5, NOT included in final score)

(4/5)

(3.5/5)

(1.5/5)

(2.5/5, NOT an average)

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