Small Time Crooks is one of those rare Woody Allen comedies which doesn't depict him as a neurotic jew, and instead relies on good old-fashioned humour (slapstick and verbal banter), to generate laughter.
Ray Winkler (Allen) is a not-so-bright schemer always on the look to make a quick buck, generally by stealing it from others. His latest idea involves buying a store two doors away from a bank, digging a tunnel under it to reach the vault. He recruits the help of three of his friends Denny (Michael Rapaport), Tommy (Tony Darrow), and Benny (Jon Lovitz) who make Ray look like Einstein by comparison; his wife Frenchy (Tracey Ullman), and her cousin May (Elaine May). Frenchy opens a cookie store in the new location as a front, and as Ray's plan is foiled by their ineptitude, Frenchy's store become a national success and wealth and riches follow for the parties involved.
The film is a morality play about the excesses of greed and stature, and delves into how the wealth affects Frenchy and Ray. Ray yearns for the old days where he could still exercise his skill as thief. Frenchy wants to be accepted into high society. This becomes a divisive issue between them and a cause for marital strife.
Woody Allen is funny, both in the way he delivers his zingers and his slapstick routine. Ullman delivers a solid performance. Elaine May steals the show with her straight-forwardness. Rapaport, Darrow, and Lovitz are highly underutilised.
Small Time Crooks is good family entertainment. While there's nothing here that made my stomach hurt with laughter, it had me grinning through out. Definitely worth renting.