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Ray Winkler (Woody Allen) and his younger wife Frenchy (Tracey Ullman) are both exes: he an ex-con now dishwasher, she an ex-exotic dancer now Manhattan manicurist. When Ray wants to use their savings (her savings, actually) to finance a daring bank heist, his misadventures begin. But Frenchey turns out to be an asset when her home made cookies turn them into a fabulous business success. As Frenchy tries to better herself and get accepted into the bosom of New York society, she and very down-to-earth Ray fall out, and she attracts the attention of handsome young art dealer David (Hugh Grant). But as things turn out, their success was their worst enemy....

Review by Louise Keller:
It has taken a while for this Woody Allen film to get to DVD, but what a delicious sojourn! The misadventure of Educating Woody and wife in Small Time Crooks brings about some of the funniest Allen moments in years. Everything works - the crazy plot, the bitingly real characters, the one liners, the toe-tapping soundtrack and the splendid execution. It's easy to be whisked away into Allen's wacky world of wit and wry observation. The whole film has that kinda comfortable feel.

The married couple (Allen and Ullman are marvellous) bicker non-stop, and go from poor quarrelsome to vulgar-rich quarrelsome. Ah - human nature - ain't it grand - when you're watching someone else's domestics, that is. It's rags to ugly riches, pizzas to snails, Eliza Dolittle to No Fair Lady, domestic mahem to devastating dreams and Allen just being Allen, with all his irrepressible foibles, mannered eccentricities and gloriously irritating stumbling, bumbling ways. Great to see Elaine May (who could forget her with Walter Matthau in A New Leaf?) as the very dumb cousin who just can't help herself from saying the first inopportune thing that comes into her ... mouth! She recalls with surprise how the only word her dyslexic husband could spell, was his name - Otto. And Hugh Grant makes for a super slimy opportunist.

There's much to amuse and savour - gnomes in the bathroom, a harp for visual sweep, leopard skin abounds, a zoo of sculptured animals, a rug that lights up and a collection of leather pigs that we never see... As for the wardrobe - well, it's a great chuckle. Watch out for Woody wearing the most hideous tuxedo (plus coloured jackets to drone about), while Ullman gets tizzed up to a tee a la Ivana Trump, and carries it all off with the most disarming vulgarity. My favourite bit? There are lots, but the notion of memorising the dictionary in a bid to become genteel comes close. Of course, our Eliza only gets up to the letter 'A' and manages to misuse every word that starts with it! It's a happy hoot, and yes, beware the dreams you have - they may well come true.

Published June 21, 2005

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CAST: Woody Allen, Tracey Ullman, Michael Rapaport, Tony Darrow, Jon Livitz, Elaine May, Hugh Grant, George Grizzard, Elaine Stritch

DIRECTOR: Woody Allen

SCRIPT: Woody Allen

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes



DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: May 19, 2005

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