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By Michael Calleri

The new caper movie, "Henry's Crime," has its roots in any number of heist films, but it is probably closest to Woody Allen's unsung little gem, "Small Time Crooks."

In both movies, a central character, is not only a failure in the eyes of a productive go-go society, but also in his own eyes, so he decides to break the law in a less-than-daring, and generally silly, robbery attempt. Both capers involve a little bit of elbow grease and some digging, and both have side-stories geared to adding some levity to the goings-on.

To be sure, there are differences between the films, not the least of which is that in "Small Time Crooks," the lead goof-off is played by director Allen himself, who brings his often-used fidgety persona to the role. Allen is a talented wordsmith and a good comic actor. In both features, the ability to read a line of dialogue that will engender if not full-on belly laughs, then at least some smiles, is essential.

Alas, in "Henry's Crime," the primary role is played by Keanu Reeves, who seems to get more wooden as an actor the more movies he's in. The film is a romantic comedy of sorts. Reeves has starred in them before, but rarely is he someone about whom you definitely think: "ah yes, he should get the girl." Nothing's changed with "Henry's Crime."

Reeves plays a listless toll booth collector, who leads a dull life in a low-rent, seedy Buffalo. His friends are the sort of hapless people who would involve him in the kind of ill-planned robbery that usually goes awry, as one does. A clueless Henry thinks he's just hanging out with his pals, but he's actually driving a getaway car for a theft. This act lands Henry in jail for a brief spell, where he meets a crusty old thief, who tells him about a fool-proof robbery idea. It seems that there's a tunnel that runs under Main Street in downtown Buffalo between a bank and a drama theater. Therefore, it's the perfect opportunity for the perfect robbery. Because he's served the time, why not really commit the crime is what Henry's thinking.

He slowly plans his actions. By the time the movie is in what passes for high gear, Henry is involved with the female lead of an acting troupe that is staging Chekhov in the theater that will get Henry access to the tunnel. The primary questions are whether or not he will commit his robbery, get the girl, or both.

The lackluster film does have good performances from James Caan as the aged jailbird and Vera Farmiga as the actress who captures Henry's heart. Reeves fails the "it's alive" test.

Director Malcolm Venville doesn't have the right touch for light comedy. He also overloads his movie with too many quirky secondary characters, which means the screenplay, which is written by a team of three (and who knows how many others worked on it, possibly Venville and Reeves, who produced), delivers lead characters that are poorly drawn.

"Henry's Crime" is sporadically amusing, but it never quite makes you really glad to be in its presence. Buffalo, in its few sequences, comes across as nothing special, certainly not a city with a rich architectural heritage. Much of the movie was shot in Tarrytown, New York.

There is one truly lovely visual highlight, a scene set in Niagara Falls. We are treated to a beautifully photographed moment during which Farmiga and Reeves stroll at the brink of the American Falls. The film never lives up to that promising image.

"Fast Five" is the fifth feature in the "Fast And The Furious" series, which is ostensibly about souped-up street vehicles and undercover cops. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker were in the first picture, but not in all of them. However, they both return in this standard, inane American action movie, directed by Taiwan's Justin Lin, which has a convoluted plot, bad dialogue, worse acting, and unbelievable characters. It all revolves around a ten-ton safe containing $100-million, which is hidden in a police station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Before arriving in Rio, Walker will steal back a high-performance car that is being transported by U.S. Federal agents on a roaring freight train. Walker will also spring Diesel from the clutches of the law. The cops are led by Dwayne nee The Rock Johnson. The prison bus in which Diesel's riding is carrying a slew of convicted men and is attacked by Walker and his crew. The bus rolls over scads of times and ends up a pile of crushed metal on the highway, but no one aboard is killed. In fact, no one on the bus even seems to have been injured. By the time everyone ends up in Rio, innumerable peripheral characters jump in and out and there are many fierce gunfights that settle nothing. All of this is geared towards the final thirty minutes, which features a slam-bang car chase that is genuinely one of the better ones I've seen. If you go, sit through the initial set of closing credits for a scene that promises a sixth edition.

"Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil" is a dumb and ultimately dreary animated movie that would have been fun as a short, but instead runs almost 80-minutes. In it, Little Red Riding Hood is part of the Happily Ever After agency that solves crimes and makes sure all fairy tales have happy endings. She's joined by the Big Good Wolf in order to make sure the recipe for truffle cupcakes stays in safe hands. Hansel and Gretel are tubby tykes and are one set of villains. The picture runs out of steam after it's half over, but it keeps a-coming. It exhausts you. The animation is flat, the dialogue scattershot, and the repetitive jokes hit you over the head so often that you feel like shouting: "Okay, stop, I get it." You have a choice of the 3-D or 2-D version. I saw it in 3-D, and it's nothing special. There's no reason to pay the extra money.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com May 3, 2011