Small Time Crooks

Bomb Rating: 

Does Woody really have to write himself a role that requires an even more whiny Woody than is normal?

Woody Allen must have thought he had a good idea: a small-time crook plans to rob a bank, but ends up becoming a cookie mogul instead. I mean, how could you go wrong with that? However, what could potentially have been classified firmly in the "cute" Woody category of films, turns out instead to be an ill-conceived story whose plot has little structure beyond the first act.

But first things first. Does Woody really have to write himself a role that requires an even more whiny Woody than is normal? Allen's small-time crook is Ray, a former ex-con dishwasher who dreams of being rich and complains incessantly about things not going his way. Complain, complain, complain -- he never stops. This is all becomes moot in the face of one crucial question: Can anybody envision Woody Allen surviving prison? Even if he made it out, his ability to complain would be drastically hindered by a dysfunctional jaw -- the result of having gobbled more cock than a starving fox in a hen house.

The film moves along okay until the cookie thing takes off. After that, it's a movie about how Ray and his wife, Frenchy (Tracey Ullman), don't fit in to high society. The guys who help Ray with the failed bank job (Jon Lovitz, Michael Rapaport, and Tony Darrow) basically disappear from the story. Meanwhile, French hires Hugh Grant for culture lessons, which Ray wants no part of.

The culture lessons, Ray and Frenchy's ill-suited intellects, and Frenchy's stupid relative, May (Elaine May), are all simplistic, one-note jokes whose humor value declines rapidly. Despite this, they claim the entirety of acts two and three. By the time we reach the end of "Small Time Crooks," it feels like the end of a bombed stand-up routine.

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