When a woman asks a guy - who's trying to pick her up for romantic and other hidden reasons - whether they can meet at his place, it's usually not a good idea for him to reply in the negative due to the place being deloused. Then again, most smart people aren't attempting to rob a jewelry store and need to get to know the woman since the apartment where she works just so happens to share a common wall with that establishment.
That's just one of the goofy situations in "Welcome to Collinwood," a generally amusing crime caper that swings a lot, but rarely hits any out of the cinematic ballpark. Even so, it's consistent enough in its setup and delivery so as to be moderately entertaining.
Sharing quite a few plot and character similarities to Woody Allen's 2000 comedy, "Small Time Crooks," the film is actually a remake of the 1958 Italian film, "Big Deal on Madonna Street," that starred Marcello Mastroianni and others as criminals with a similar motive.
Like both of those pictures, this one features a bunch of bumbling and not altogether bright petty thieves and lowlifes who get wrapped up in the idea of breaking into a jewelry store safe (as compared to a loan office in "Madonna Street" and a bank in "Crooks") via the building next door.
The brotherly writing and directing duo of Anthony Russo and Joe Russo ("Pieces") also follows the same pattern of introducing various comical complications and setbacks to the point that you'll wonder if the characters will ever be able to overcome them or their basic ineptness.
Accordingly, the film plays off the old saying regarding the best laid plans of mice and men, except that the mice might be more capable as the plans aren't exactly the best. That's part of the fun, and while the film is rarely, if ever, over-the-top hilarious, I did find myself laughing or chuckling on far more than one occasion.
If there's one major fault to this comedy of errors it's that it never really gets out of second gear. One constantly wants the proceedings to be hilarious, zany or contain fun and highly imaginative obstacles. Unfortunately, the film never gets up a full head of steam in terms of that or its pacing and thus might disappoint those looking for something a bit more frenetic.
For the most part, the performances are similarly restrained, but otherwise are solid across the board and everybody seems to enjoy embodying their characters. The biggest star - George Clooney ("Ocean's Eleven," "The Perfect Storm") - gets the funniest but briefest part - but the likes of William H. Macy ("State and Main," "Magnolia"), Michael Jeter ("The Gift," "The Green Mile"), Luis Guzman ("Punch Drunk Love," "Traffic") and Isaiah Washington ("Exit Wounds," "Romeo Must Die") get some amusing moments.
Yet, the filmmakers miss the boat on some characters, such as the one played by Sam Rockwell ("Heist," "Charlie's Angels"). While there's a decent subplot featuring his growing attraction to the aforementioned maid played by Jennifer Esposito ("Don't Say a Word," "The Bachelor"), a key element is misplayed. Since he's a boastful but unsuccessful pugilist in the ring, a funny running gag could have had him always getting beaten up outside it, despite whatever bravado he might present. Instead, the filmmakers opt for the exact opposite that isn't as inherently funny.
Nothing particular novel or memorable, the film is amusing enough to earn a passing grade and comes off as an entertaining diversion. "Welcome to Collinwood" rates as a 6 out of 10.