Mini-Review: Take the Money and Run

Take the Money and Run

Comedy, 1969

85 minutes

Starring: Woody Allen, Janet Margolin, Marcel Hillaire, Jacquelyn Hyde

Directed by: Woody Allen

Written by: Woody Allen, Mickey Rose

Take the Money and Run is the first “real” Woody Allen movie, the one whose DNA we can still find traces of in the writer-director’s most current offerings. It’s a straight-up comedy, but not necessarily slight. In fact, it’s one of the first of its kind: a mockumentary that employs a wide variety of gimmicks to create the illusion of authenticity. Using this form, it tells the story of Allen’s failed criminal protagonist, Virgil Starkwell, a crook so pathetic that his attempt at a bank robbery is foiled by his poor penmanship. It features both footage of Starkwell and interviews with those closest to him; the best subjects are his parents, who agree to appear only on the condition that they be allowed to wear Groucho Marx glasses (to conceal their identity).

The gags are plentiful, and usually very clever. One of my favorites is a scene of Virgil in his high school’s marching band: he plays the cello. He struggles—and fails—to keep up with his classmates, sitting down in his chair and playing a single note, then getting up and scrambling to keep his place in the band. It’s simple and silly, but also a brilliant bit of visual humor, which Allen does quite well anyway. The whole film is full of such scenes, and my descriptions can hardly do them justice.

…So go watch it, learn it, enjoy it, and then we can start our own club. The password will be, “Is Kowalski a midget?!”

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