Catch Me If You Can
Dreamworks // PG-13 // $26.98 // May 6, 2003
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 30, 2003
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The Movie:

"Catch Me If You Can" is an attempt for director Steven Spielberg to return to lighter fare after the darker sci-fi/noir efforts "A.I." and "Minority Report". As basic entertainment, "Catch" is certainly worth viewing, fun and both nicely crafted and acted. It is, however, a film that suffers from a few noteworthy issues which I will discuss.

The film is "inspired by" the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo Dicaprio, who is quite convincing), a 16-year-old who, as the film opens, finds himself witnessing the gradual breaking apart of the marriage of his parents (Christopher Walken, Nathalie Baye). Its the 60's and Frank, Jr. is not about to let his parents slip apart. After an early test impersonating a substitute teacher for a week, Frank runs away from home and tries to find his footing in the city.

Although nobody wants to cash a check from a kid, Frank stumbles onto an idea one day - how about being a pilot? He learns the dialogue, learns the details, gets himself a uniform and starts putting together fake paychecks from the company, which he cashes whenever he needs more money. Soon enough, he's gotten himself millions and the attention of the government, most notably agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), who senses a potential promotion if he can catch the criminal. Unfortunately for Hanratty, things aren't always that easy.

The two meet up fairly quickly, leading Hanratty to realize that he's not chasing an adult forger, but an incredibly smart teenager. Much of the movie is essentially just that: the chase between the two, as the agent often finds himself empty-handed, arriving just after Frank has departed, choosing to become something or someone (a doctor, a lawyer) else.

This is certainly fine entertainment, as I mentioned before, and the faults that I do find in the film don't sink it entirely. There's a lot of hints of the fact that Frank is doing all of this in an attempt to reunite his parents, which is never explored in very much detail after being brought up. There's also little background to Hanratty; although Hanks plays the character as expertly as one might expect, there's just not a whole lot of character there to work with. We also only see Frank beginning to put together his check-fraud plans, but never really see that much of him learning how to do it or how exactly to improve upon what he was doing. Rounding out concerns is the film's length - as with all of Spielberg's recent fare, the film's running time have used some shortening - nearly two and 1/2 hours for this not particularly substancial tale leads to some sections in the second half that started to feel long and the chase could have been a bit more tense.

As I noted before, I liked the performances and really, they were what I felt carried the picture. Dicaprio is superb as Frank, convincing as a teenager and portraying the hurt and confident sides of the character skillfully. Hanks is fine, as well, although Christopher Walken's role as Frank's dad proves to be more entertaining. Martin Sheen also offers a decent performance in a minor role. As per usual, Spielberg's picture is technically marvelous. The period is recreated wonderfully, while Janusz Kaminski's rather soft photography still manages to provide interesting compositions and nice style.

The chase between the two leads is generally well-played if not too developed. Still, I appreciate the fact that, while the audience is supposed to cheer Frank on, Hanks' Hanratty isn't made to look like an idiot, either - while Frank outsmarts his persuer often, there's a determination to Hanratty that grounds the whole chase nicely and adds to the feeling of potential danger. Overall, I certainly enjoyed "Catch Me If You Can" and wouldn't mind if the director went towards this lighter direction on occasion, but I didn't quite love it.


VIDEO: "Catch Me If You Can" is presented by Dreamworks in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Shot by frequent Spielberg cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, the picture has a rich, bright and slightly soft appearance, looking just as it did theatrically. While the picture does have an intentionally slightly soft appearance, sharpness and detail still remain very pleasant, as the picture offered fine clarity and definition.

Thankfully, few problems appeared throughout the presentation. No edge enhancement was seen during the film, but I did notice a slight compression artifact or two. The print was in superb condition, with no dirt, specks or other flaws. Light grain is an element of the film. The film's warm color palette is presented quite superbly here, with nice saturation and no concerns. Overall, this is an excellent, "film-like" presentation.

SOUND: "Catch Me If You Can" is presented by Dreamworks in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. Although mainly dialogue-driven, the film's soundtrack is still a very pleasant experience. The John Williams score is quite capably handled by the front speakers, and given some reinforcement by the surrounds. The surrounds are also used appropriately for some subtle touches: nice, light ambience and a few more noticable sound effects are also offered by the rear speakers. Nothing much in the way of bass, but the score remained crisp and dialogue clear. When comparing a few scenes, both the DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks sounded the same. French Dolby 5.1 and English Dolby 2.0 tracks are offered.

EXTRAS: The second disc of this 2-DVD set offers all the supplements, which are listed below. There is no trailer, and the featurettes are subtitled in English, French and Spanish.

Behind The Camera: This is a 17-minute piece that serves as a general "making of" for the picture. While a general overview, this piece still doesn't simply restate the plot points over again; instead, we get a very informative set of interviews (Spielberg, Dicaprio and other members of the cast and crew) and enjoyable, informal behind-the-scenes clips. Definitely better than the usual "making of" piece.

Casting: This section offers short featurettes that profile the actor in question (Jennifer Garner, Tom Hanks, Leonardo Dicaprio, Nathalie Baye and Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen and Amy Adams) and the thoughts behind the decision to cast them in the role. All combined, the casting interviews last for just under 30 minutes.

FBI Perspective: One of the most interesting pieces on the second disc, this piece offers an interview with the FBI technical advisor who was working with Tom Hanks and the crew throughout the production. We learn more about bank security and FBI work in the time period.

Frank Abagnale: This section is split into 4 smaller featurettes - one is a general piece about Abagnale, another about his life as a pilot, another about his other careers and, finally, his decision to turn his life around.

Also: A short featurette on the film's score that's mainly composed of an interview with John Williams; a final "closing" featurette; photo galleries; bios and production notes.

Final Thoughts: "Catch Me If You Can" features very good performances from Dicaprio, Hanks and Walken. While it does suffer from being overlong, it's still fine entertainment. Dreamworks has put together a fairly good DVD with superb audio/video, but not too much in the way of supplements. Recommended.

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