Small Time Crooks

Rated 4.0 This brilliantly serene farce in street-hassle accents is the least pretentious Woody Allen film in a long, long time. The story is a little wonder of sidelong characterization and switchback plotting, as Frenchy, a retired exotic dancer (Tracey Ullman), and her husband, Ray (Allen), an inept ex-con, bungle their way through self-delusion and petty tragedy before reaching a comic sort of enlightenment. What begins as a ludicrous bank-robbing caper bottoms out into an off-the-wall epic about the runaway success of a cookie-baking business, which was originally intended only as a front for the subterranean bank robbery. Elaine May, as Frenchy’s dotty cousin, is given some of the best lines in the film, stealing scenes effortlessly, and with an almost demented sort of modesty.