CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

WORTH CATCHING

Review by Mark Walters

 Crime doesn't pay... or does it?  Either way, Leonardo DiCaprio looks like he's having quite a bit of fun in the new Steven Spielberg film CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.  Based on the true events of con-artist extraordinaire Frank Abagnale Jr., CATCH tells the story of a boy from a broken home who dealt with his problems by pretending to be someone else, and cashing in by doing so.  The movie opens with FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) transferring a sickly and slightly older version of Frank Jr. from a French prison to America.  We then flashback to six years prior.  Frank Jr. is living with with his seemingly happy parents, and all feels right with the world.  Things quickly change.  His father (Christopher Walken) is having serious IRS problems, resulting in a major downgrade in the family lifestyle.  Frank Jr. goes to a new high school, where he finds enjoyment fooling his classmates into thinking he's a substitute teacher.  Thus begins his obsession with trickery.  Back at home, his mom appears to be cheating with Frank Sr.'s wealthy friend, played quietly by a somewhat pudgy James Brolin.  Divorce soon follows, and Frank Jr. can't handle it.  He runs away, immediately bouncing checks in an effort to live on his own.  After seeing the unusual amount of high respect received by airline pilots, he concocts a plan to pose as one.  His new look allows him to cash "payroll" checks easily, and he begins raking in the dough.  Taking things one step further, Frank Jr. even uses his persona to fly all over the world for free.  It isn't long before the FBI gets wind of what's going on, and agent Hanratty becomes determined to stop the thief behind it all.  And so the chase begins.  Frank Jr. manages to stay one step ahead of his pursuer, eventually posing as a doctor and even a lawyer, all the while never realizing what he really needs to be content.  Women find him charming, and the newspapers practically glorify his actions.  He finds time to communicate with his father, who surprisingly never disagrees with Frank Jr.'s methods, though it's obvious he feels his son is going to lose control.  Meanwhile Hanratty is risking his own career by repeatedly letting the thief slip through his fingers.

CATCH is an engaging film to say the least.  One can only wonder how a person was cunning enough to pull all these acts off. Spielberg directs with fairly minimalist style.  There's not many fancy shots here, but rather several moments of subtle humor.  One James Bond-related gag helps make the movie shine, and generates some great laughs.  DiCaprio and Hanks handle their roles well.  Leo can still make us believe he's young, and it's hard to not like him in this role.  Hanks is fun to watch, and his rather thick accent makes up for his otherwise nerdy character traits. We know he's the good guy, but almost view him as that strict librarian type who just doesn't know how to have fun.  He's by the book, and Leo isn't, which creates a terrific character contrast.  Walken turns in a fairly good performance as well, playing the tortured father figure who only wants the best for his son.  Jennifer Garner fans can look for her to pop in and out as a former model turned prostitute.  Unfortunately it's a "blink and you'll miss her" role.  Other actors appearing here include Martin Sheen as the wealthy father of an innocent girl Frank Jr. proposes to, and Amy Adams as the girl in question.  Also take time to appreciate the smooth score composed by the one and only John Williams.

If there's any negative points here, one could easily say that the film runs rather long at 140 minutes.  The opening of the picture also gives away the fact that Frank gets caught, which might have been better left until the end.  There is a very unusual solution to all the problems he causes, making the film particularly unique.  Spielberg has crafted an enjoyable flick that brings back the feeling of the late sixties, and appropriately tells the story of a truly interesting man... er... kid..

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give CATCH ME IF YOU CAN an 8.


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