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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Small Time Crooks
Small Time Crooks
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 19, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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After moving from other studios recently (Miramax for "Celebrity" and New Line for "Deconstructing Harry"), it seems that Woody Allen is trying to start fresh at Dreamworks. "Small Time Crooks" still has a bit of an edge to it, but at a PG rating, it's much lighter than much of his recent work. Allen plays Ray Winkler, a former con who plans with his wife Frenchy(Tracey Ullman) to rent out a store and dig into the bank vault next door.

The only problem is that Frenchy's cookie store becomes an instant success, and rakes in tons of money. Suddenly, the Winklers find themselves in the middle of high society. Ray would rather hang out with his friends Denny (Michael Rapaport), Tommy (Tony Darrow) and Benny(Jon Lovitz), but Frenchie becomes friends with an art dealer (Hugh Grant).

The plot is admittedly slight and certainly not to the level of some of the other director's films, but there are a lot of simple pleasures within the film. Allen's joke writing is wonderful; there are so many great one-liners throughout the movie that I laughed quite often. There's little slapstick, but when it does enter in, it's in good fun.

The performances are also enjoyable all around. Allen is smart and sharp as Ray, and he has perfect chemistry with Tracey Ullman. Ullman is always wonderful (her "Tracey Takes On" show on HBO is hilarious), and she throws back Ray's complaints and insults with a fine line of her own. Also good in supporting roles are Jon Lovitz and Michael Rapaport.

By bringing in a lighter movie, Allen seems more relaxed and funnier than many of his recent efforts. "Small Time Crooks" is also, in my opinion, the director's most entertaining film in quite a while.


The DVD

VIDEO: Dreamworks provides image quality for "Small Time Crooks" that is often up to their usual standards of quality. The movie does have beautiful cinematography by Zhao Fei (who also worked on "Emperor and the Assassin" and Allen's "Sweet and Lowdown"), which looks very pleasing here. Sharpness and detail are both great, and the picture is consistently good. The only problem that I really noticed was some noticeable shimmering at times, but other than that, the picture looks absolutely clean. There are no print flaws - no marks, scratches, etc, and there are no instances of pixelation.

Colors are also first-rate, with colors looking rich and well-saturated throughout. Although not among the best work that the studio has done, the picture quality for "Small Time Crooks" is often pleasing. Allen's film looks great, which is saying something on a small budget, and that translates well here.

SOUND: In this area, I might've talked about how "Small Time Crooks" was limited in activity by the fact that it's a comedy. In this case though, the movie's audio is limited by the fact that it's...mono. Like the rest of the director's movies, he's still stuck with this kind of presentation.

The audio itself isn't too bad. Dialogue was generally easy to hear, although there were a few moments where I missed a line or two - but that may have been due to my own laughter. The music, as with all of Allen's films, comes across as thin and weak; Allen always uses old jazz recordings for the score.

MENUS:: An animated clip leads into the main menu, which has music playing behind it.

EXTRAS: Like most Allen films, there isn't much in the way of extra features. All we recieve here is a trailer, cast/crew bios and production notes. I suppose that's actually more than the discs for his recent films have offered.
Final Thoughts: Although it's unfortunate that Allen decided to go mono again with the audio (and near-zero with the extras), the picture quality is fine. Disc dissapointments aside, "Small Time Crooks" is Allen's most entertaining in a while, and it's worth at least a rental.

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