Ray Winkler is a “small time crook” with big dreams. Recruiting his wife and some fellow bumblers, he leaves his job as a dishwasher to open a cookie store next to a bank. And while his wife operates the cookie store, he and his cohorts work in the basement on breaking into the bank. Wealth comes from an unexpected direction, helping fulfill his dreams. But there is an ancient curse about getting everything you wish for.
Review by Cinephiles
Small Time Crooks, written and directed by Woody Allen, offers a comedic view on the effects that excessive wealth has on love, trust and self-identity. Although Small Time Crooks exposes the themes of poverty and of the popular desire to become rich and famous, the film does not intend to offer a serious commentary on such issues. Instead, Small Time Crooks focuses on its protagonistic couple’s cat-and-dog relationship, its naiveté, bad taste and overall clumsiness.
Small Time Crooks tells the funny tale of the impoverished Ray Winkler (Woody Allen), a dishwasher, and his wife Frenchy (Tracy Ullman), a manicurist. The film visits the couple after 25 years of an imperfect marriage, when their situation forces them to question their self-worth and to hope to rekindle long-forgotten dreams of success. Driven by an unfounded self-confidence, Ray decides to rob a bank with his equally eager and ignorant buddies (Jon Lovitz, Michael Rapaport and Tony Darrow), and manages to set up a cookie shop near the bank, from where to dig a tunnel. Unexpectedly, Frenchy succeeds in “making good dough”, and their cookie shop cover-up promises to become a moneymaking emporium.
Although the plot of Small Time Crooks offers the viewer a series of humorous surprises, character development is also unexpected and inconsistent. Initially, Small Time Crooks establishes Frenchy as patient, strong and somewhat sensible, while Ray is portrayed as childish, overly anxious and prone to failure. Surprisingly, these characterizations are switched without sufficient evidence of the characters’ transformations. Frenchy’s lifelong personal qualities, including her unconditional loyalty to Ray, are instantly replaced by the accessories of financial success, making her weak and vulnerable in her obviously risky dealings with the attractive David (Hugh Grant: Mickey Blue Eyes). On the other hand, the once childish Ray is suddenly defined by a mature sense of self and of his love for his wife, rendering him suddenly immune to his familiar desire for money. Nevertheless, Small Time Crooks is a film guided by the spontaneity of its resolutions, and is successful as it creates uncomplicated comedy by placing its laughable characters in amusing situations.