COMEDY Small Time Crooks (PG) 92 mins x x * There are some things in life that you can rely on, to quote an advertising campaign. The opening credits to a Woody Allen movie are such a thing; there’s the 305 jazzy showtune theme, the credits typeface, the Rollins/Joffe production team. These days though, the only thing that you can be sure of from Mr Konigsberg is decidedly inconsistent movie- making. Having gone through the 705 and 805 being unable to do much wrong, the 905 saw mixed bags aplenty. The great Sweet And Lowdown made up for the rank ordinariness of Celebrity, while Deconstructing Harry was a blessing in the light of the failed musical experiment that was Everyone Says [Love You.
And now on the back of constructing the semi-fictional world of Emmet Ray - the second finest jazz guitarist ever born - his strike rate dips again with this slight tale of, well, small time crooks. In the absence of a John Cusack or Kenneth Branagh willing or able to step into his tiny shoes, Allen comes from behind his lens to take on the ‘Woody' role. Here, the
central character is Ray, a bumbling, insecure thief whose previous crimes and misdemeanours have seen him do time. Now though, he has convinced his wife Frenchy (the splendidly shrill Tracey Ullman) that his next job is fool-proof. Operating a crew of dimwits, Ray's plan takes a while to get off the ground. In the meantime, Frenchy's covering role as cookie-maker
earns her celebrity status.
So far, so fairly funny. Then, in drops Hugh Grant as a posh suitor given the task of making sophisticates out of the pair by educating them on the pleasures of fine wine, high art and backseat blowjobs (one of these is
(U) 90 mins * t t
Cruella’s back. And this time she’s Ella. Thanks to a shot of mind-altering Pavlowan treatment during her stay at Her Majesty's Pleasure post-707 Dalmatians, Glenn Close’s larger-than- life baddie is released into the community as an animal-lovmg philanthropist With a distaste for her former name. Only when Big Ben strikes twelve does the spell snap, letting her revert to character, her
More crimes and misdemeanours from Mr Allen
false). Or is he just after their personal fortune? Those who enjoyed the comedy heist goings-on of the likes of Palookavi/le won't find much originality in this film’s first half. Those seeing the portrayal of Ray and Frenchy as victims of some subverted Pygmalion plot may balk at this vision of ordinary folk plunged blindly into a world they don't belong to. Most unforgivable though,
is the lack of laughs which such a slight tale should
00 u. w o ' 1' “ ‘ I'o'ois.“o.'v‘.‘ > I“ . w
Doesn't give the dogs enough of a look in
paSSion for Dalmatian fur renewed. The plot mm is the only Significant variation in the live-action formula fashioned by Disney in 1996 when it remade its ClaSSIC canine cartoon With real animals. Here, we're a generation on from Pongo and Perdie, but the shape of the story is Virtually identical. We're in that same Curious landscape of Village London, where everyone lives in earshot of Big Ben, counCil offiCials wear bowler hats, the Orient Express has a regular serVice to Paris and there’s nothing the locals like more
easily elicit. The only consolation is that Woody’s recent track record should ensure his next one is a success. (Brian Donaldson)
I GF T, Glasgow; Cameo, edi’nburgh from Fri 8 Dec.
than a trip to the Punch and Judy show of a Sunday afternoon.
Once again, the baddies are pantomime caricatures - this time Close is JOined by Gerard Depardieu as a gloriously over-the-tOp furrier, their costumes the highlight of the film - and once again the goodies can’t help falling in love, loan Gruffudd and Alice Evans delivering performances of saccharine blandness, qwte lacking in personality. Naturally, it’s the dogs that save the day.
If only they did it more often. The script’s limitation is that it’s too caught up in the machinations of the human world to give the dogs enough of a look in. For the most part, the animals Sit round being cute (With the exception of an irritating talking parrot), and only on a couple of occaSions do they get to drive the plot. When that happens, the film comes into its own, whether it's the spot-free Oddball nearly falling off a roof at the start, or the combined efforts of all 102 Dalmatians to turn Cruella De Vil into a cake in the great bakery closing sequence. Watchable but not spotless. (Mark Fisher)
I General release from Fri' 8 Dec.
The Grinch (PG) 105 mins it it t
In America Christmas Just ain't Christmas without Dr Seuss' Yuletide parable The Grinch lit ho Stole Christmas tthough over here Seuss is know n better for the children's learning to read books The Cat In The Hat and Green Eggs And Ham) Surprisineg The Grincn IS the first live action feature to be adapted from the work of the wOrld's best-selling children's author A miserable experience writing the 1953 children's fantaSy The 5000 Fingers Of Dr T soured Seuss’ opinion of films, but director Ron Howard (Apollo 73, Ed TM has gained permISSion from the late Seuss’ estate. Of course, it probably helped that Howard had Jim Carrey, the world’s highest paid comedian, on board
There was a whole lotta hullaballoo in Hollywood abOut whether or not the bankable star should be recognisable in his Grinch make-up. When stationary he’s not, but when he starts With the slapstick aCrobatics Carrey's unmistakable And sfx magiCian Rick Baker’s masks do nothing to inhibit his trademark faCial elastiCity. The scenes that work best are those With the superb Carrey in action as the green grumpous, wrecking Christmas for his clcying sweet neighbours the Whowans of Who-Ville This is the essence of Seuss’ SO-page picture book, Which is relegated to the film’s third act. The remaining running time is fleshed out With ‘backstory’ - why the Grinch stole Christmas — Which turns out to be an unimaginative case study of an unhappy childhood.
Howard lays this on pretty thick and does likeWise With the book‘s moral: Christmas is about family not presents. Seuss got away With this because he kept it light and fun, Howard gives a full-blown sermon. He also takes the bus all the way to Sickly Sweet-Ville and then stalls it there; you will barf when the Whowans hold hands and sing. Toy Story 2 and Chicken Run got the cross-generational appeal right — and Seuss also has this kind of appeal — but golly gosh Howard’s Grinch doesn’t. You can’t help but wonder What Hollywood’s reSident Goth filmmaker Tim Burton would have done With it. (Miles Fielder) I General release from M 7 Dec. See feature.
Carrey’s superb as the Christmas- wrecking green grumpous
30 Nov—14 Dec 2000 THE llST 27