CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 2:20 - Released 12/25/02
People believe what you tell them, Leonardo DiCaprio says repeatedly in Steven Spielbergs Catch Me If You Can. Im afraid the great director might be taking his main character a little too seriously.
Catch Me If You Can claims to be inspired by
(read: very loosely based on) the like-named autobiography
of Frank W. Abagnale Jr. (co-written by Stan Redding), a brilliant
con man and counterfeiting expert who, between 1964 and 1967,
lived a life of intrigue that would not be believable if it werent
true, forging millions of dollars worth of checks and masquerading
as an airline pilot, college professor, stockbroker, pediatrician,
and assistant attorney-general, as well as a graduate of Harvard
and Berkeley universities, all before the age of 21. Whats
even more amazing is that after finally being captured and imprisoned
for several years, Abagnale was actually employed by the FBI,
where he aided in the apprehension of people like himself. Having
repaid his stolen millions and his debt to society, he has since
become known as one of the world's most respected (and well-paid)
authorities on check fraud and secure documents.
This is all well and good, but can the movie deliver? Well.
Thats hard to say. While its an interesting story,
somehow the presence of talents like Spielberg and Tom Hanks seems
to work against the project as a whole by raising the expectation
to a level that is unreachable by way of Jeff Nathansons
screenplay. DiCaprio is believable as Abagnale, and Hanks is as
reliable as always as FBI Special Agent Carl Hanratty (the detective
who dogs Abagnale throughout the story and comes tantalizingly
close to apprehending him several times before finally succeeding).
Christopher Walken and French actress Nathalie Baye do adequately
as Franks estranged parents, and good performances are given
by numerous supporting cast members like Martin Sheen, Amy Adams,
and James Brolin. But the film is vaguely disappointing given
Spielbergs stellar track record. Large credibility issues
are glossed over as if they are unimportant; everyone Frank deals
with is conveniently naïve, and all of his daring schemes
work without the slightest hitch.
Perhaps this is one of those occasions when a truly unbelievable
story must be brought a little closer to Earth in order to be
sold on the screen. Even if it really happened exactly like this,
it needs to be told in a way that doesnt make it look so
easy. Although Frank is seen pretending to be doctors, lawyers,
etc., hes seldom put in a position where hes forced
to think on his feet. The one exception is a scene in which, as
a doctor, he is totally out of his element in an emergency room,
but those around him appear too remarkably stupid to noticeagain,
making it too easy. We are told the most incredible stories and
expected to accept them as truth simply because the other characters
accept them, other characters who seem too dim and unassuming
to be real people. DiCaprio exudes the charm Frank must have had
to succeed, but the text makes it look like he didnt need
anything but charm.
Regardless of the outrageous elements of the plot, the talented
people involved with this film made it into an enjoyable one,
with all the expert technique we have come to know from them.
In addition to those mentioned, the presence of longtime Spielberg
collaborators like cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, with his odd
angles and smoky filters, and composer John Williams, whose playful,
frenetic score is different than any I have heard from him, adds
yet more professional savvy to the proceedings.
I like this movie for its fun-loving tone and technical genius. But I dont love it the way I loved Schindlers List, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., and Minority Report. It is an enjoyable film. It is an amazing story. But sometimes incredible stories have to be made a little more credible in order to be believed. ****