Catch Me If You Can Review
By Shawn McKenzie 12/19/2002
Have you ever just seen the credits for a movie, without knowing too much about the movie’s plot, and thought, “Yes, this is going to be a good movie!” That’s what I thought when I saw the credits for Catch Me If You Can. Despite my fear that it was going to be the big screen version of “The Pretender,” I knew it was going to be good. I didn’t know it was going to be one of the best movies of the year though.
Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) was a good 16-year-old kid with a loving family. His parents, Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken) and Paula (Nathalie Baye) seemed to love each other. Not long after Frank Jr. catches his mom fooling around with one of Sr.’s co-workers, Jack Barnes (James Brolin), which leads to divorce, Frank runs away. He is a very intelligent young man, and he figures out a way to cash fake checks involving forgery and aliases. He teaches himself the terminology for different occupations that he claims to be by watching TV shows. Hot on his trail is the head on the new check fraud department of the FBI, Carl Hannratty (Tom Hanks.) Carl becomes obsessed with bringing in Frank. Meanwhile, while posing as a doctor, Frank falls in love with Brenda Strong (Amy Adams), a nurse at the hospital he pretends he has been assigned to. His love for Brenda throws a kink in the ability to hide himself from the law, because he can’t run away from her or change his name while he is with her. He does figure out a way to change occupations through her dad Roger (Martin Sheen), a lawyer in Louisiana. Throughout it all, he is lonely, so he occasionally allows Carl to get close to him, because he loves the chase. The greatest trick he is able to learn is that if you establish yourself as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, you can get away with telling the truth and they won’t believe you. He is eventually able to commit $4.5 million in check fraud before he is caught.
How can this movie go wrong? With DiCaprio and Hanks in lead roles, and Walken and Sheen in supporting roles (plus a cameo by Jennifer Garner, who plays Cheryl Ann, a prostitute that Frank figures out how to scam), this movie didn’t go wrong. To top all that, it was directed by the great Steven Spielberg! The weird thing is that the movie doesn’t feel like a Spielberg movie. Sure, it does have that Spielbergian touch of putting a rosy shine on the story, but if you didn’t already know it was his movie, you wouldn’t know it after watching it (assuming you don’t read the credits.)
Catch Me If You Can was based on the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., a con man who ultimately ended up working for the FBI helping catch other check frauders and made millions developing check security systems for big companies. I don’t know how much was fictionalized or glorified, but I didn’t care anyway. After you watch it, you will have so much fun that you won’t care either. You also won’t care that this movie is about two hours and twenty minutes. The story is so fascinating that you will be shocked that it took over two hours to tell it.
I originally thought that Catch Me If You Can was just going to be a fun project for everyone involved and wouldn’t be going after any awards, but after seeing that the Golden Globes are giving it some love (see the nominations here), I wouldn’t mind rooting for it to go for some Oscar gold!
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