Catch Me If You Can

After flirting briefly with the darker side of the future with movies like Minority Report and A.I., director Steven Spielberg returns more to a shiny happy time with Catch Me If You Can, a thematic antithesis to his recent films. Based on the book by Frank Abagnale Jr. and Stan Redding, Catch Me chronicles Abagnale's brief career in crime forging millions of dollars in checks and evading the FBI. There is no real depth to this movie, but it is a lot of fun. Spielberg and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson (Rush Hour 2, Speed 2: Cruise Control) give it a light breezy feel to the entire proceedings, and make it pretty fun to watch. Although Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio, Gangs of New York, The Beach) is running around committing serious felonies, the audience still empathizes with him and wants him to escape.

Abagnale runs away from home when confronted with choosing between his father (Christopher Walken, The Country Bears, The Affair of the Necklace) and mother (Nathalie Baye, An Affair of Love, Tomorrow's Another Day). Abagnale Sr. enjoyed pulling some minor cons, usually to help his struggling business, and Abagnale Jr. had the brains to think on his feet and pull these same cons. After running away, Abagnale notices that Pan Am pilots receive a tremendous amount of respect and admiration. Posing as a high school reporter, he steals a pilot's uniform and begins forging checks. One thing leads to another, and soon he is flying across the country on Pan Am flights. As he becomes savvier in check forgery, the FBI, under Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks, The Road of Perdition, Cast Away) begins chasing him. Abagnale's checks become larger, and he soon jumps to false careers in medicine and the law.

Spielberg's largest accomplishment in Catch Me If You Can is recreating Abagnale's entire world. A lot of thanks go to his cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Minority Report, A.I.), who sometimes films with a soft focus that lends an innocent, dreamlike feel to the movie, and composer John Williams (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Minority Report), whose ebullient score effortlessly embodies the time period. However, at 140 minutes, Catch Me is a little too long given that a lot of the film is fluff, especially near the beginning when Spielberg is setting everything up. There are good performances by DiCaprio and Hanks. DiCaprio, although nearly ten years older than the Abagnale character, has the boyishly good looks necessary to pull of the cons that Abagnale does, usually through the continuous use of flattery towards young, attractive women. He is extremely convincing and most of the fun that derives from watching this movie is seeing how he talks his way out of situations that look impossible to get away from.

What Catch Me is missing is some 'meat.' Spielberg tries to inject some with a father/son-like relationship between Hanratty and Abagnale. Abagnale's father is necessarily absent from his life on the run, and he has very few friends. Hanratty is the only constant, and also has an admiration for Abagnale's skill. Abagnale tries to project his longings for a parent onto Hanratty, and this never comes across as convincing. And although it makes the Abagnale character a little more complex, he becomes a little less fun to watch. The tone is too different from the rest of the film. It's as if Spielberg is getting lazy with Catch Me If You Can, he's making movies that don't have the reach or ambition of some of his other works, so it's not as good as he can do. Still, it's Spielberg, so even if he does slack off a little, it's still better than what a lot of people can do.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 20 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief language.

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