Once it becomes clear that this is a movie of unrelated episodes, we can relax and enjoy the pointless tale unfolding on screen.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

Before you throw up your hands in dismay at this zany movie, think of it first in simple terms. "Steal Big, Steal Little" is one giant shaggy-dog story, and shaggy-dog stories don't have to make sense as long as they make you giggle and shake your head along the way. You'll probably do a little of both with this one. Like all such tales, it is neither good nor bad. It just wanders aimlessly.

Two identical twin boys are separated during the divorce of their adoptive parents. One goes with the nasty father and becomes nasty Robby; one stays with the kind mother and becomes kind Ruben. Their adult selves are played with considerable charm by Andy Garcia. So much for the fairy tale, which evaporates when whimsy and fancy are drowned in a contemporary battle between land lover (Ruben) and developer (Robby). But I'm ahead of myself.

Mother Mona (Holland Taylor) leaves her entire 40,000-acre ranch in glorious Santa Barbara to Ruben, who makes the place a monument to his mother by running it as one big happy family of the Americans, Mexicans, and artists she had loved.

Somewhere, usually offstage, Robby and the local power people are plotting foreclosure, eviction, and development. Funded by an evil billionaire (Kevin McCarthy), they want to turn Mom's ranch into money malls. The inevitable showdown between good guys and bad involves the collision of the symbolic bulldozer and an inspired trap of Ruben's design.

Once it becomes clear that this is a movie of unrelated episodes, we can relax and enjoy the pointless tale unfolding on screen. What unfolds, in fact, is a hodgepodge on such a grand scale that laughter ripples involuntarily through the audience. Take your pick of sights to enjoy: polo ponies, illegal aliens, a villainous IRS agent, a grazing goat, crooked lawyers, fancy yachts, a horse-borne messenger, a bad sheriff, a vintage train, devout monks, limos, cows, jeeps, guns, and two Chicago gangsters with hearts of gold.

If a little more fairy dust had been sprinkled on all of the above, a fable or a fairy tale might have bubbled to the surface. As it is, it's a meandering parade of people and props that generate laughs from the sheer silliness of it all.

If Andy Garcia is fine as the twins, it is Alan Arkin's reinforcing performance as Lou that tickles the funny bone. Coming on at first as a cynical opportunist, Lou is quickly seduced by the warmth of the extended ranch family. As an actor, Arkin is clever enough to see the fun in staking out the territory of becoming a true friend to the just.

It may be a jumble, but isn't there at least one real smile to be had from the certainty that justice must prevail in the story of a war between two brothers who face each other down surrounded by a posse of horses and a hot air balloon?

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Studio : Savoy Pictures
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 2h15m

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