"Catch That Kid" (or, as it was apparently formerly known, "Mission Without Permission") is the latest effort from director Bart Freundlich (formerly known for nothing remotely similar - such indie films as "World Traveler" and "The Myth of Fingerprints" and also, for being Julianne Moore's husband).
A remake of a Dutch picture ("Klatretosen"), the film stars Kristen Stewart ("Panic Room") as Maddy, an aspiring mountain climber who looks up to her father and his previous mountain climbing efforts. Maddy's father (Sam Robards) was injured years ago in a climbing accident and complications from that fall have suddenly resulted in serious illness that requires an experimental operation that costs $250,000 - a sum that Maddy and her mother (Jennifer Beals) can not come up with.
So, what do they do? Do the kids do fund raising? Sell lemonade? Uh, no. Maddy's mom has just installed the security system at a local major bank, which the kids plan to rob. Maddy pulls her best friends, Gus (Max Thieriot) and Austin (Corbin Bleu) in to help provide computer skills and escape.
They have it especially easy, given that - as expected in a movie like this - all of the adults are idiots, especially a cartoonish security guard (James Le Gros, in an embarassing performance). Freundlich's efforts here resemble that of his downer independent films; for a picture marketed as a comedy, the film is surprisingly a bit on the heavy side. The action sequences are directed fairly well, but the film as a whole seems lacking the required level of spark or energy.
While it has its moments, my main reason for continuing to be involved in the movie was to simply see how it would work itself out of the hole it continued to dig: kids do something terribly wrong to try and do something good, the movie makes the kids riding go-carts through Los Angeles traffic cool, Maddy uses her charms and professes her love to both Gus and Austin, who have fallen for her, in order to get them to go along, Maddy brings her little kid brother along on the heist, Maddy flirts with the training security guard at the bank, who is the older brother of one of her friends; Maddy continues to mountain climb on a dangerous water tower, despite the warnings of her parents, even marking her progress on the side of the tower; the kids run from the bank's attack dogs and finally, the kids run from the police on go-carts and one jumps from one speeding cart to the other while in-motion.
While the final heist and the cart chase work as sort of an engaging mini-"Mission Impossible", the film's messages aren't exactly great for kids and the movie never quite manages to pull its way out of that.
VIDEO: "Catch That Kid" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan on this release, with each edition housed on the flip sides of a dual-sided disc. The anamorphic widescreen edition looked merely okay, with sharpness that remained just average. Definition was also somewhat inconsistent, with some dimly-lit scenes appearing slightly smeary.
Moderate amounts of edge enhancement appeared in several of the outdoor scenes, while some minor compression artifacts were visible in a few instances. The print looked clean and clear for the most part, but a couple of shots displayed some specks and a scratch or two. Colors remained surprisingly low-key, with a naturalistic tone that seemed to be displayed with little fault.
SOUND: "Catch That Kid" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is a mostly front-heavy soundtrack, with the occasional surround effect thrown in during a couple of the action scenes. The score and hip-hop/rock soundtrack was mostly offered by the front speakers, but occasionally the surrounds offered minimal reinforcement of the music. Audio quality was perfectly fine, as dialogue and sound effects seemed clear and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: Actors Kristen Stewart, Max Thieriot and Corbin Bleu offer an audio commentary on both editions of the movie. On the widescreen side, you'll find 8 deleted scenes from the film. The full-frame edition includes Blue Sky's hilarious "Gone Nutty" short, starring the Scrat character from "Ice Age". The full-frame side also offers trailers for "Catch that Kid" and "Like Mike". Both sides also include a trailer for the upcoming "Garfield" movie.
Final Thoughts: While I personally found "Catch That Kid" more entertaining than "Agent Cody Banks", this messages in this film geared towards kids are still rather troubling. Fox's DVD edition provides decent picture quality, fine audio and a few good supplements. Kids may still want to give it a rental, but a discussion of the film between parents and kids may be a good idea afterward.