15 December 2002 | HenryHextonEsq
Enjoyable charmer that lacks consistency and depth.
Now I'm rarely a man to agree with any 'consensus view' of particular films, yet I very much have to go along with the tide as regards 'Take the Money and Run' - only the second Allen film I have commented upon here, though I have seen many more.
Basically, the film is enjoyable viewing throughout, but not an entirely consistent, successful comedy. Allen had yet to hone his skills in fashioning feature length films; I have reservations more so for 'Bananas', less so for 'Sleeper' and 'Love and Death'; the two films with which he really hits his stride. This is his first film as a director and thus maybe it is to be expected that we'll see a transitional film. One can tell Allen is trying to work out a formula to translate his largely verbal stand-up humour to film. He really does a pretty good job of this. There are plenty of very good jokes and a generally very lightweight, genial tone to this picture. It is seen through by this, yet is hamstrung by its very effervescence; the film is likeable and won me over, yet it is too scattershot in approach and delivery to really satisfy.
Woody himself is an instantly winning figure in his comic persona; that of a physically diminutive and verbally bumbling Jewish intellectual. With in this film the vocation of a bank robber; a displacement which results in much of the expected amusement. There's not yet any attempt to go very deep into this character of his, but this is a pure, light comedy. No real New York or indeed Bergman or Chekhov reference points yet.
One is reminded in Allen of David Thomson's insightful comments on Chaplin and the persona he projected to audiences; trying to charm them and win them over by a certain vulnerability and status as 'underdog'. It is very true that in many of Allen's films, like Chaplin, he is right at the centre of the film, and the world outside is not portrayed with any sense of the mechanics of reality. Conflicts are never all that serious or convincing; he draws from a limited pool of character types, in socio-political terms. Allen has done films with other leads; though his usual concerns always find their way through. 'Take the Money and Run' is full of the Chaplin tendency to have bullish, physically imposing figures, or indeed perhaps a wider society, threatening the 'little man'. There is a wish-fulfilment woman in the languid person of Janet Margolin's Louise; as a character more a projection than of flesh and blood or shades of grey. She works well as a slightly wan, attractive comic foil for Allen, who doesn't mind getting her hands dirty, but she's really not Diane Keaton.
This film is slight, no question about that... it fails under real scrutiny, yet it is largely very enticing stuff; an early glimpse of Allen getting his filmic technique in order. If you like what the man does - and surely most (wryly bespectacled) film cineastes such as I do! - then you are sure to enjoy this film. Just don't count on it being a triumph in the major key.
Rating:- *** 1/2/*****