Catch Me If You Can (2002)


Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:

Warning, minor plot points revealed!

Frank Abagnale Jr. is one of the luckiest guy in the world.  I'm sure he's happy now but I wish he could have been happier during his teenage crime spree days.  It made me happy just watching him get away with everything.  It also made me happy that Lord Spielberg had two really cool movies in the same year (Minority Report.)  And as DiCapri-weekend ended, Catch Me If You Can triumphed as the Leo film to watch.  

This is the true story of an FBI agent who tracks down and catches a young teen con artist who successfully impersonated an airline pilot, doctor, assistant attorney general and history professor while cashing more than $2.5 million in fraudulent checks in 26 countries.  

Abagnale quickly learns what he is good at and unlike most of us, immediately makes a life out of it.  He can con almost anyone into believing anything and in the simple-minded 60's, apparently everyone but Frank was a stooge.  Even the FBI agent hot on his trail seems to fall under his spell when they first confront each other.  It was noted by Roger Ebert, that Frank was not a criminal mastermind, he was just very adept at playing a situation to his advantage.  

This is the thrill of the movie.  Frank will get into a situation that seems to spell disaster, but an opening will always become apparent and Frank never hesitates to plunge through.  As an audience we are drawn into this precisely because we are not like Frank.  He never takes measure of the consequences of his actions so he becomes a mythic hero to those of us who act only with forethought.  And the rewards of Frank's victories more than make up for the small penalties he receives along the way.

DiCaprio is great at playing Abagnale.  At 28 years of age he can still play a 17 year old with no problem at all.  Leo will probably still be playing teenagers for many years to come.  Tom Hanks does a great job with his role of FBI agent Carl Hanratty.  Hanks probably performed the single-minded role with little effort so he gave himself the task of perfecting an exact Boston accent for the character.  And Christopher Walken is just great at everything.  I'm always happy to see him in any of the 100's of films he decides to appear in each year.

Catch Me if You Can is not a great Spielberg film but it is a great film by Spielberg.  It's a movie that asks nothing of you and is pure enjoyment.  You leave the theatre feeling wonderfully happy and perhaps more willing to take a chance the next time fate makes an offer.