Review: Take the Money and Run 50th Anniversary13th November 2019
Woody Allen’s work with screwball comedy has been somewhat of an underwhelming experience. Sleeper and its insistence on becoming a homage to that of slapstick silent films got in the way of some otherwise great dialogue. If we exclude the editing in and variations that he provides in What’s Up, Tiger Lily? then this is the first ever film Allen has fully directed and starred in. It’s more like watching a historical document than anything else, and it’s a great piece for analysis, but not much else.
Take the Money and Run follows a similar style to that of Allen’s later work in Zelig. A documentary style proposition is made, following Virgil Starkwell (Allen), an incompetent, would-be thief that finds himself frequently in and out of jail. Starkwell’s inabilities as a thief is confused further by his general quick wits in tricking local law enforcement and accidentally escaping the slammer. He meets love interest Louise (Janet Margolin) while trying to steal her purse, and from there romance fortuitously blossoms.
It’s your expected, farcical affair from Allen’s early days as a director. Expecting an intermediate amount of quality from this would be a dangerous expectation to hold. His Zelig style of storytelling is grating enough, but thankfully the few scenes that are filmed like a documentary are few and far between. One or two of the jokes even manage to weasel their way into my memory from these scenes, in which Virgil’s parents talk of how disgraced they are, wearing novelty face masks to hide their identity. Again, much like Sleeper, there are focused pieces on that of the slapstick and novel genre, more so than I would have first expected.
Take the Money and Run has some awful pacing to it, with the gaps between jokes becoming larger and larger as the writing struggles to fill a mere 85-minute running time. Its gags begin to grow tired, and a couple are repeated ad infinitum, and it’s probably down to the charm of Allen in his bumbling lead role that this one manages to work as well as it does. He manages to sell the jokes in an inspiringly strong manner, leading much of this film to be an enjoyable enough time.
A real harmless early film from Allen in his pre-Annie Hall run of comedy flicks. Take the Money and Run avoids the depth that his later works will offer up, but for those looking for a great comedy straight from the late 1960s, this may be worth a look at. A film filled to the brim with as many throwaway lines as this is obviously going to have a fair few hits and misses throughout, it’s just up to the audience as to how well it’ll resonate.