Review: Catch Me if You Can

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

Steven Spielberg is by far, one of this generations greatest directors. This summer, Spielberg gave us a fantastic motion picture in Minority Report, and proving his versatility, he is back this Christmas with a very different type a film. While Minority Report was a thought provoking, sci-fi, action film, Catch Me if You Can is a delicious cat and mouse game, and a movie reminiscent to the films of the Rat-Pack. However, Minority Report will be Spielberg’s greatest triumph of Y2K2.

The story behind Catch Me if You Can is one of endless interest. The film tells the tale of Frank Abagnale Jr., who before he was 18, had cashed more than $4,000,000 in fake checks, and posed as an airline co-pilot, doctor, and an assistant district attorney of Louisiana! After overly Hollywood-ized biopics like A Beautiful Mind, finally, we have a person worthy of a film of this exposure.

Frank Abagnale Jr. is an only child, living with his parents. Things seem to be fine for Frank, he is a good student, and a nice boy, with a deep attachment and love for his parents, especially his father. When Frank Sr., runs into some legal/financial trouble, his parents get a divorce. Frank Jr., is then asked to choose which parent to live through, a choice no child should ever have to make. Instead of writing down a name on a piece of paper like a particularly insensitive lawyer wants him to do, he runs away from home.

Armed with only the checkbook his father gave him for his birthday only several days before, he heads off into the real world. He uses the techniques his father instilled in him for charming people, but is unsuccessful. He eventually gets the idea for posing as an airline pilot so he can cash business checks after he sees how a group of pilots are treated at a bank. So, now posing as an airline pilot, he begins to forge Pan Am checks. Not soon after he begins this, does the FBI catch wind of him, and agent Carl Handratty is assigned to his case. Carl is a inexperience and naive, yet strictly business FBI agent who wants nothing more than to catch Frank and through him in jail. However, Frank is not caught that easily, and soon, half a decade of chasing has passed.

Catch Me if You Can’s only true flaw is its timeline. The movie starts out after Frank has already been caught, then it goes back to the beginning, then back to his capture, and so on and so forth. While this really doesn’t put a serious damper on our knowledge of the chronology of events, it does kind of take the fun out of guessing what happens. And with a film that relays heavily on its “fun factor,” this is a severe blow.

Catch Me if You Can’s objective is to be a breezy adventure for the whole family. While it is an adventure, and it is for the whole family (excluding one minor sex scene), Catch Me if You Can can hardly be described as breezy. Catch Me if You Can’s tedious running length of 140 minutes is difficult to sit through. Making matters worse, due to the constant shifting back and forth of the plotline, (as described above), the 140 minute running length is accentuated beyond what it should be.

A climax is just as important in film as it is in bed. Especially considering the film’s cat and mouse plot. Unfortunately, Catch Me if You Can doesn’t really give us a true climax. Due to the flashback quality of the plotline, the climax it feels happens somewhere in the middle, when in fact, it happens at the end of the movie.

My critique with the plot here, is only nitpicking though. I think the thing to keep in mind while determining whether or not you see this movie, is that this is a great story. Frank Abagnale Jr., is eternally fascinating, and whatever mistakes the way this movie is told has, the story easily compensates for all of them.

The biggest kudos deserved by any section of Catch Me if You Can has to be the team behind the opening credits. The opening credits are so inventive in fact, and leaves us craving the film yet to be seen. While Catch Me if You Can doesn’t fully deliver, the wonderful build up doesn’t leave us tremendously disappointed. I hate to use it, but I think the word “anti-climactic” may be in order.

Being set in the sixties, Catch Me if You Can gives our eyes a lot to feast on. After reflecting upon this movie for a few days, I believe it is in fact the setting of the movie that is the real movie. Everything from the costumes, to the sets is wonderfully done. Not to mention that hairdos that tell the story of culture in the sixties to those of us who were not alive to see them first hand. Working well with the costumes and sets is a great soundtrack, accentuated by Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me.”

The trailer for Catch Me if You Can was a hit at all the showings it was previewed at. I myself quite enjoyed it. However, there was one glaring aspect that I was fearing. That horrible Boston accent sported by Tom Hanks. Its not a real hindrance, but it is certainly noticeable and very rarely did I forget it was there. This unquestionably did however put a damper on Tom Hanks’ performance, which while good, is not outstanding.

The Golden Globe nominations were released before Catch Me if You Can was. While I wasn’t surprised to see Leonardo DiCaprio’s name on the ballot, I was surprised his nomination came from this film, and not the epic picture released last weekend, Gangs of New York. After seeing Catch Me if You Can though, I am not surprised at all. His performance is obviously one of the five best of the year. It shows great charisma, and its not any man who can out shine two time Oscar winner Tom Hanks, but Leo DiCaprio does it with ease, here.

With Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks headlining this movie, its easy to forget about the supporting cast. And in Catch Me if You Can, they threaten to steal this movie away! The supporting players here are Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, and Jennifer Garner. Walken undoubtedly has the largest part of these three, and he turns in his usual splendid performance. He blends warmth and angst wonderfully. Martin Sheen is above average, but its Jennifer Garner who deserves the most talk and praise. While her role is quite small, and her performance is simply adequate, this is a brilliant career move for her. Her TV show Alias is starting to gain critical and ratings prestige, and a role like this will certainly draw her some more fans.

Catch Me if You Can is 2002’s big Christmas Day release, and it appears that Dreamworks has had its eye on the coveted 12/25 release date since Catch Me’s conception. The movie has a Christmas theme without, highlighted by Frank’s annual call to his chaser, Carl.

While Catch Me if You Can does have some glaring flaws, when all is said and done, Catch Me if You Can is a wonderful story, with great performances, a great setting, albeit, told in the wrong way. Not many directors can pull off a one-two punch in the same year, but Steven Spielberg has done just that. Minority Report may be the better movie, but Catch Me if You Can is still fun entertainment.

© 2002 Jacob Sproul

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