Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Catch Me If You Can Be Bothered
Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn't quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out - Frank Abagnale Sr.
Quite often when you read the blurb on the back of a DVD case, what sounds like an intriguing plot featuring a star studded cast and an exceptionally talented director is going to end up being disappointing. Such is the case of "Catch Me if You Can" a film inspired by a true story of cat and mouse between a young con man and an FBI agent. Whilst disappointing "Catch Me if You Can" is not terrible, it just has a few too many flaws which detract from what could have been a great movie.
After watching his parents marriage fail due to the failure of his father's business, teenager Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio - Gangs of New York) goes on a rollercoaster ride of an adventure as he cons his way into jobs as a pilot, doctor and lawyer, all amassing him a vast amount of wealth as he becomes an expert in forging cheques. But hot on his trail is FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks - Road to Perdition) who is determined to bring the young con man in.
One of the main issues I have with "Catch Me if You Can" is that whilst it may have drawn inspiration from a true story the screenplay has obviously gone through tinsel town's glitz machine and resulted in a slightly over the top, implausible plot line which although entertaining lacks the realism that the story deserves. Now there is nothing like a bit of escapism but this is pushing the boundaries a bit too far and you really have to disengage your brain to accept some of the set ups and cons which are shown in the movie. Maybe these actually are real cons and events but the way "Catch Me if You Can" delivers them makes them seem cartoon like in their implausibility.
Another huge problem with "Catch Me if You Can" is you are split as to who you are championing. Do we route for Abagnale who is enjoying himself as he cons his way through life or are we supposed to route for Hanratty as he tries to uphold the law and bring the young man in. The movie never really asks us to champion one or another and that leaves you in a conundrum as there is no good guy, bad guy set up and so I found I couldn't feel for either, and wasn't to concerned at a possible outcome as to who wins.
More problems continue with the fact that the story line whilst entertaining is pretty flat, there are no real elements of suspense or scenes which leave you stunned as something amazing happens. Everything seems to be two dimensional and just plays along in the hope that it is enough to keep you watching. I wish I could say the issues stop there, but "Catch Me if You Can" is also spoilt by some terrible cliché dialogue which feels completely unoriginal.
Saying all that, one of the good things about the story is that it moves along at a gallop and thankfully you are not left long at any time to ponder the implausibility of what you have just watched. You would think that I don't like "Catch Me if You Can", but when you disengage your brain it is reasonably enjoyable and entertaining.
The casting of "Catch Me if You Can" is a bit hit and miss, with a few good performances but equally some poor ones, mainly due to miscasting. DiCaprio show his usual talent for playing characters younger than himself and whilst his performance is not the most intense of his career his is probably the best performance in the movie. But on the downside of this is his character is actually quite annoying and at times wafer thin, leaving you with a sense of who is this guy meant to be. Sadly although DiCaprio puts in a good performance, not once are you able to become so immersed that you forget you are watching him act.
The same can be said of Hanks in his role as Carl Hanratty and in my opinion a major part of miscasting. Hanks excels at playing the nice guys but struggles at everything else and whilst Hanratty is by no means a bad guy it is a difficult character to play. It doesn't help that the character itself is seriously under worked making him just another character, no real background or motivation. Then again maybe that was the whole idea, make his character so lifeless that he just has work, but it fails to really get this across.
Other prominent actors in "Catch Me if You Can" include the likes of Christopher Walkern, Martin Sheen and James Brolin but again all their characters are seriously under worked even though they are minor characters. The underlying issue is not so much with quality of the acting but the under developed characters which fail to involve you in what they are doing.
What does come as a surprise is that this is a piece of directional work from Steven Spielberg, and from such a great director you would expect more. The whole movie lacks the intensity that the concept deserves and at times the whole thing feels slightly rushed, pushed out just to make money, well a lot of director's make films for money rather than artistic merit so why not Spielberg. Part of this problem probably stems from 2002 being another year where we saw Spielberg put out two movies in this case "Minority Report" in the summer and "Catch Me If You Can" in the winter. But despite feeling rushed the film has some positives, the most prominent one being that it captures the feel of the 60s, when it is set, brilliantly both in set design, costume and sound track.
What this all boils down to is that for me "Catch Me if You Can" technically has a lot of issues, but as already mentioned, if you can disengage your brain and watch it just for the entertainment factor then it is reasonably enjoyable. For me the first time I watched it I was disappointed as I did expect so much more from a top director and leading actors, but since then I have learnt to appreciate it for what it is, just a commercial piece of entertainment.
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