Small Time Crooks Review

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Inveterate dreamer and bungling crook Lenny persuades wife Frenchy to front a cookie bake shop while his gang use the premises to tunnel into a bank. The robbery’s a bust, but Frenchy’s munchy morsels make their fortune. The new challenge is breaking into


Unlike so many humorists who repeat themselves, there seems to be no end to Woody Allen’s inspiration for unexpected and laugh-out-loud funniness, both visual and verbal.

This sweet, very light-hearted caper has a basic plot that couldn’t really be much simpler: lowbrow losers come into money, crash high society, and wind up learning what they really value. The joy in their tale is in its goofy twists, marvellously sketched characters and wall-to-wall wisecracks (from the minute Lenny answers his wife’s ‘Who’s there?’ with ‘It’s the Pope. I’ve always wanted to see your apartment!’ to the final parting shot).

Allen’s character, ex-con Lenny, a dishwasher with delusions, is a complete hoot. Grant’s charmer who ultimately proves to be a snake deftly teases his image of stammering adorability. But the genius element here is the women.

Ullman’s Frenchy, former exotic dancer and manicurist, is a creature of breathtaking vulgarity but immense likeability, as she embarks on her spend spend spend spree, undertakes to improve herself by memorising the dictionary and engages Grant’s smarmy Brit to teach her some culture and polish. Allen rightly revels in her performance, but for good measure rediscovers the awesome comic talent of May (who, before she became a director, was Mike Nichols’ partner in a legendary satirical stand-up duo some 40 years ago) as the daffy, slow, somewhat literally minded poor relation who upstages them all.

Small Time Crooks has no pretensions to being anything other than a cute wheeze of an urban fairy tale, with a ‘be careful what you wish for’ punchline. As such, it doesn’t bother to concern itself with the Zeitgeist; it’s simply cracking good fun.

Delightfully absurd. Those who complain that Woody’s forays are too frequently into the world of neurotic Upper East Side navel gazers may enjoy spending time in the company of this cheerful set of inept felons and unlettered oddballs, who are still quick