Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by:Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Tracey Ullman, Michael Rapaport, Tony Darrow, Jon Lovitz, Elaine May, Hugh Grant
Released: January 26, 2001
Grade: A-

Ray Winkler (Allen) has come up with another hair-brained scheme.  He’s noticed the pizza shop two stores down from the bank has closed down and the place is for rent.  With friends Denny (Rapaport) and Tommy (Darrow), he intends to lease the shop and use it as a front whilst a tunnel is dug underneath into the bank vault.  Frenchy (Ullman), his wife, is sceptical but comes around with a little persuasion - she can operate the store selling her delicious cookies.

The plan is in trouble early with another party beating Ray to the lease.  It happens that an old friend from jail, Benny (Lovitz), wanted the lease so he could burn the place down and claim the insurance.  As Ray explains to Benny, you can’t keep making a living from petty insurance scams and offers him a share in the bank heist in return for the lease.

Ray, Denny, Tommy and Benny are not the brightest criminals and everything goes wrong.  Yet the biggest surprise comes from Frenchy whose cookies become a city-wide success story resulting in massive exposure for the store - not exactly the ideal cover.

Every year I look forward to the new Woody Allen movie and as always, I was not disappointed.  Allen has his own style of intelligent comedy that other filmmakers don’t have the guts to attempt.  Studios have been following the recent trend of “gross-out” comedies that are humorous to an extent but familiarity breeds contempt.  There were so many scenes during Small Time Crooks where I had to laugh out loud at its originality.  The film takes a different path midway through but it only provides even more material for Allen to work with.

Tracey Ullman is fantastic as the wife as is Elaine May as a friend and employee of the store.  The male leads are underwhelming but as is tradition with Allen, the females take centre billing.  It’s nice to see an experienced cast working really well together.  Allen’s films often don’t appeal to a wide audience but Small Time Crooks will suit most.