A scene from 'Catch Me If You Can'
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**** stars
140 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Wednesday, December 25, 2002
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Nathalie Baye, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams, James Brolin, Jennifer Garner, Elizabeth Banks, Ellen Pompeo, Jamie Anderson, Chris Ellis, Mike Baldridge, Natalie Compagno, Robert Curtis, Kam Heskin, Brian Howe, Frank John Hughes, Deborah Kellner, Phil Reeves

This film is on the Best of 2002 list.


The amazing, mood-setting, Saul Bass-styled animated title sequence of this film loses a lot of punch on video, but the rest of the film is just as enjoyable and engrossing on the small screen. But do get it in widescreen because Spielberg's 1960s imagery plays an important part in the atmosphere and storytelling, so you want to see every inch of what he intended.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 05.06.2003
With one disc dedicated to the film alone, the picture quality is superb in this 2-disc set of one of 2002's very best films. The other DVD contains a terrific array of entertaining, detailed featurettes about the making of the movie that give a real sense of the energy and enthusiasm on the fast-paced, 52-day shoot. All the pieces include on-set and post-production interview material with Spielberg, his stars and the real Frank Abagnale. One is dedicated to the casting (it's broken into separately cued 3- to 7-minute segments, which is quite a hassle). One features the costume designer, production designer and cinematographer talking in depth about making the film look and feel authentic. One is about the fact-vs.-fiction of Abagnale's story. One is dedicated to John William's fantastic, progressive-jazz style score and another features the film's FBI consultant speaking to the authenticity of the agency's portrayal in the movie. A lot of care and dedication went into these extras.

What's notably absent is the trailer, which was a good one and absolutely should have been included. Couldn't that have taken the place of the cute menu design (based on the cool opening credit art) that requires you to click on a pilot, a doctor or a lawyer to get to one of three different menu styles? Also featured: photo galleries (including costume sketch-to-reality comparisons, but not enough of them), production notes, etc.

RATIO: 1.85:1 (16x9 enhanced)
SOUND: 5.1 or 2.0 Dolby, 5.1 DTS
DUBS: French
SUBS: English, Spanish, French

DVD RATING: ***1/2


 LINKS for this film
Official site
at Rotten Tomatoes
at Internet Movie Database
Watch the trailer
DiCaprio back in fine form as an ingenius teenage con man in Spielberg's masterfully mirthful 'Catch Me If You Can'

By Rob Blackwelder

Steven Spielberg's best movie in at least a decade, "Catch Me If You Can" is a capricious, invigorating, infectiously jaunty caper about one of the most extraordinary con men in United States history.

In the mid-1960s, Frank Abagnale Jr. passed himself off as an airline pilot and fooled Pan Am, as a doctor and got a job as a Georgia hospital's graveyard-shift emergency room manager, and as a lawyer, becoming an assistant prosecutor in Louisiana under the wing of his unsuspecting fiancée's father.

And when he was finally caught -- after cashing millions of dollars in bogus checks to boot -- Frank Abagnale Jr. was all of 20 years old.

In the movie, the charade begins when 16-year-old Frank (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his finest performances to date) is pulled from the private high school that his IRS-persecuted father (Christopher Walken) could no longer afford and enrolled in a public school. On his first day of class Frank is mistaken for a substitute teacher, and on a whim he runs with the idea -- teaching classes, assigning and grading homework, putting the fear of bad grades into cocky jocks. And he wasn't discovered for three whole weeks.

When his parents' divorce turns his world upside down (a sensation captured with bona fide, pained bewilderment by DiCaprio), Frank runs away, kiting checks for months on the bank account his dad had opened for him with $25 -- and when that simplistic scam runs out of steam, he starts getting creative.

Inspired by the time his father dressed him up as his chauffeur to look like a big shot while trying to secure a loan, Frank gets his hands on a Pan Am uniform (from the airline's tailor) and an FAA license (he makes a copy while pretending to interview an Pan Am manager for his school paper), then flies around the country for free, posing as a co-pilot on vacation. Soon he's forging his own Pan Am paychecks, too, by soaking the airline's logo decals off of toy planes and pasting them onto blank bank drafts he's fabricated.

With an uncommonly light touch that doesn't leave his fingerprints all over the picture, Spielberg plays all this deception for the cheeky, opportunistic fun it is in young Frank's mind -- and the feeling is completely contagious, thanks in part to a mellifluous, period-styled, progressive jazz score by John Williams (his most creative, unusual work in years). Costume designer Mary Zophres ("Ghost World," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?") and production designer Jeannine Oppenwall ("Pleasantville," "L.A. Confidential") aid immeasurably in creating the movie's transporting, sunshiny-'60s atmosphere that fits perfectly with DiCaprio and co-star Tom Hanks' blithe and brilliant performances.

Hanks plays starched-shirt FBI Agent Carl Hanratty, the amusingly humorless hound to Abagnale's fox, who is frustratingly one step behind this teenage charlatan from their first encounter, in which Frank makes his getaway by claiming to be a Secret Service agent also on the trail of the same unknown check frauder. Watching Frank think on his feet in this scene is one of the film's shining moments as DiCaprio and Hanks play off each other's nervous energy, setting the tone for the rest of their friendly-rivalry relationship. (Frank calls Carl every Christmas Eve, in part out of genuine loneliness and in part to taunt him.)

Forced to run after being discovered, Frank lands in Georgia, where his flirtations with a naive, insecure candy-striper (Amy Adams, "Drop Dead Gorgeous") lead to faking diplomas, posing as a doctor and landing a job at her hospital. When they fall in love, Frank finds himself in New Orleans meeting her parents (Martin Sheen and Nancy Lenehan) and spinning a yarn about being this close to having a law degree, just to impress her father, a state prosecutor. In a stroke of pure determination, he's soon passed the Louisiana Bar and takes a job with his future father-in-law -- that is until Agent Hanratty finds him again, leading to another exciting, extremely narrow escape.

Very much in the spirit of films like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Catch Me" is just as vivid in its characters' emotional depth as it is in depicting Frank's funny, seat-of-his-pants survival in his doctor and lawyer identities through gleaning what information he can from episodes of "Dr. Kildare" and "Perry Mason."

Hanks finds humanity and sublime humor in the dead-seriousness of Hanratty's determined pursuit, and DiCaprio and Walken share a strong bond as a father and son whose fates seem to be forcing them in opposite directions. Each time Frank returns home on the sly, things have gotten worse for his dad -- who can't accept any money from the boy without arousing the suspicion of both the FBI and the IRS. Walken is heartbreaking in these scenes, especially when he sees Frank still scheming to get his parents back together, and wishing the kid really could work the same magic on his ex-wife he seems to work on the world.

The film really has only two small imperfections. One is a scene in which DiCaprio goes overboard in his character's enthusiasm at wishing Hanratty a Merry Christmas. No big deal. The other is an episode that finds Frank posing as a pilot once more and recruiting stewardesses from a college as if he were hosting a beauty contest. The concept lacks veracity, but the payoff is a hoot, so there's little harm done to what is otherwise a scintillating delight of a film.


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