I have been a big Woody Allen fan and have watched most of his movies at least once, and a few of the multiple times. I have been re-reading the collection of interviews Woody Allen on Woody Allen, which of course really makes me pine to watch the films again, so I have been going back and watching some of his films that I have only seen once. I mildly enjoyed Small Time Crooks when it was first released, and liked it a lot more this time around.
There has been criticism that Allen lifted the basic storyline of this from the 1942 Edward G. Robinson comedy Larceny, Inc, penned by Allen’s literary influence S. J. Perelman, also about a gang bumbling criminals who take a shop with a plan to tunnel into a bank, and then the front turns out to be a runaway hit. Whether Allen Allen lifted the basic plot is irrelevant, as the whole point of watching this film is to enjoy Tracey Ullman’s character. Allen’s recent films have been criticized for the dearth of complex female characters such as the ones that appear in Hannah and Her Sisters, Alice, and Another Woman, who have been replace with a string of ditzy blondes. Ullman’s character Frenchy is a ditz, and blonde, but her transformation into the mogul of a cooking empire, and her desperate attempts to fit into high society is sad, but fun to watch as Ullman’s performance is so terrific. Elaine May is also very funny, and gets the best lines in the film, in a small role as a loud-mouth cousin who blows their cover.