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"Catch Me If You Can"

Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Written by Jeff Nathanson, based on the book by Frank Abagnale, Jr. and Stan Redding.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, and Christopher Walken.
Release Year:  2002
Review Date:  1/16/03 


Should the best part of any movie experience be the trailers?  Tonight, before the new Steven Spielberg film “Catch Me If You Can”, there was a hilarious trailer for the next Will Ferrell movie called “Old School.”  Holy shit, was this funny!  With Vince Vaughn in the mix, this one should at least be able to net a $9.50 Show. 

“Catch Me If You Can”, while it is a fun ride, never approached $9.50 Show status for me.  The mostly-true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and the FBI agent that spent four years pursuing him, the film is a long-winded account of Abagnale’s con work all over the country as he wrote over $4 million in counterfeit checks over a four-year period while posing as an airline pilot, lawyer and doctor...all before he hit 21 years old.  “Catch Me If You Can” follows Abagnale, Jr. from his home life in New Rochelle--where he was raised by his mother and father (Christopher Walken)--to Manhattan to Atlanta to California to Miami to Louisiana to France as he spends time pocketing cash, bedding the ladies and running from the feds. 

The film is just slow at times; at 140 minutes, a crime caper like this should have been at least 30 minutes shorter.  This is especially true in the case of “Catch Me If You Can”, since Spielberg wraps the end onto the beginning of the film, essentially ending the suspense of it all in the first five minutes.  Also, this movie just didn’t seem to know if it wanted to be a lighthearted comedy at times--making the FBI look like a bunch of fools--or be more serious fare.  It reminded me of some of the problems with “Auto-Focus”, the Greg Kinnear movie from last year:  at times a 60’s sex romp comedy, it turned violent on occasion and painted a picture of the lead character as something darker than he really might be.  You never get dark in “Catch Me If You Can”, but in scenes where Abagnale is dealing with the thoughts of his broken family life, I was just waiting to get back to watching Leo woo more stewardesses or write more fake checks. 

This is because watching DiCaprio work in this film is the only great reason to go and see it.  Clearly, he is the perfect actor to play this role--he looks 17 in *real life*, so playing that in a movie was no problem for him.  It is easy to buy that women would fawn all over him, and in all of the scenes where he makes eye contact with women, I was laughing my ass off.  Spielberg’s regular cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, does a great job with the shots in this film and it is a beautiful looking piece of work, especially in all of these scenes with DiCaprio.  The visuals of “Catch Me If You Can” make for a fantastic theater experience.  Hanks is great in support here and--like many of you, I hope--I continue thinking that the guy will do more comedy now that he has won a couple of Oscars.  Shit, I still think my favorite Hanks performance might be in “Dragnet” (with Dan Aykroyd)...with “The Money Pit”, “A League of Their Own” and “Big”, his roots are in comedy and he should get back to doing what he does best.  All of the supporting turns are good, including a pretty funny cameo with Jennifer Garner (“Alias”) and Martin Sheen. 

Hey, the perfect Matinee.  You walk in, you get reasonably entertained for $7 (yep, that’s what they cost here in San Francisco!), and two hours later, you forget you ever even saw the thing.  I can almost guarantee that you will say the words “That was a fun little movie” when you’re all finished.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09