A Tribute to Lovable Losers

Small Time Crooks

It is this generosity, together with its Damon Runyon elements and its debunking of the rich, that makes Small Time Crooks feel like an homage to the '30s. In many ways this could be a Preston Sturges script. Unfortunately the central way in which it doesn't resemble Sturges is in the density and quality of the gags. Allen can still write great jokes and great dialogue: The TV ads only hint at the brilliance of the scene in which Lovitz tries to explain to Allen that the latter's prison nickname, the Brain, was meant sarcastically. In the film, it goes on a good deal longer and is a masterpiece of elegant repetition. But the zingers are a bit too sparse and occasionally seem forced. Some of Frenchy's putdowns of Ray feel much too "written" and unnatural. Small Time Crooks is lovable and touching and a lot of fun; you just have to wish it were a little faster and funnier.

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