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Catch Me If You Can (2002)

November 11, 2010

9/10 Long Cons

Coolest. Life. Ever.

Catch Me If You Can is inspired by the life of one Frank Abagnale, Jr. who forged over $2 million in fake checks across the globe, successfully impersonated an airline pilot, an FBI agent, a doctor, a lawyer, and his High School substitute teacher…all by the age of 19 with the just Feds always one step behind from nabbing him.

Man, it really doesn’t get more awesome than that. Maybe growing up in ancient Sparta, that was probably some wild shit, but the teenage years of Frank Abagnale, Jr. are still pretty epic.

It’s not one of Spielberg’s showier efforts, and if he hadn’t followed this up with The Terminal two years later, it’d probably stand out as the most un-Spielberg thing on his resume. But whatever, as humdrum as it may seem in comparison to a dude getting eaten of a porta-potty in Jurassic Park, Spielberg’s the man and he knows how to make a kickass movie regardless of scale. Even though his involvement might actually be the least memorable aspect of this whole thing, he still moves it along at a perfect pace and does a bang-up job of balancing the tone between heartbreakingly honest and larger than life.

But like I said, Spielberg’s just the guy behind camera here thanks to Abagnale and the cast that brings this crazy-ass coming-of-ager to life.

These days, I’m still on the fence with Leo. Dude is too serious for his own good, but along with his turn in What’s Eating Gilber Grape?, this is hands-down the best freaking thing he’s ever done. The reason he rocks it as Abagnale because he gets caught right up in it all, he’s clearly having a blast when the chips are stacked in his favor, and even though the stuff he’s pulling off is probably more suited for veteran crooks twice or thrice his age, he never loses sight of the fact that he’s still very much a kid. See, Abagnale is a top candidate for Best Liar on the Planet, he makes that scumbag from Match Point look like a nervous four-year-old with piss pants trying to pin the blame on his imaginary friend for breaking the family china. But as smooth as he is, he’s not in it for the money, he’s not in it for the notoriety, he’s simply motivated by the desire to make his dad proud and the only friend he’s got in the world is one guy in the FBI trying to put him behind bars.

So I watch this all play out, I see what kind of range Leo’s got at his disposal and I wonder why every movie he’s done recently lately boils down to him just being super intense all the time. Not that he’s bad in that regard or anything, but he’s better when he branches out. All the same, Abagnale is the original “Barefoot Burglar”, a fantastic, complex character who’s in way over his head but keeps on treading water like a pro, and Leo just nails him.

And then there’s Tom Hanks as the said FBI agent with the world’s best knock-knock joke, Carl Hanratty. It doesn’t even need to be said, but Hanks is out of sight and the same goes for Hanratty’s relationship with Abagnale as it develops from disgraced predator to confidante/co-worker over the years. Love their back-and-forths, love the way Hanratty downs that eclair when Abagnale tries to bargain for it over how he passed the Bar, and you gotta love his Long Island accent. I’ll just leave it at that, this ain’t the right review for a Tom Hanks all-out love fest.

And Christopher Walken is also fantastic as Abagnale‘s dad. Considering that he’ll literally take any role that’s offered to him, be it The Deer Hunter or Gigli, it’s been a good while since I’ve seen him so vulnerable in such a legit role. He’s everything his son is, he’s everything his son isn’t and the way his “never give up” attitude is as inspiring as it is tragic. Just one more great character and one more great actor to throw into the mix.

Bonus points for a Martin Sheen cameo and a bit role from an up-and-coming, brace-faced Amy Adams. Never hurts, right?

Folks, I love Catch Me If You Can. Chances are if you turn to TBS at any time on any weekend, this will be just starting up, and I don’t know how anyone in their right mind could possible resist that temptation. Endlessly fun to watch, great acting, great characters, more choice one-liners than you can shake a stick at, and the best part about it is that it’s all true. Alright, maybe it’s not a verbatim adaptation of the Abagnale’s autobiography, but he did give it his seal of approval, the important stuff is all there, and holy crap is it nuts.

One of those rare “crime totally pays” stories that works because no one gets physically hurt in the process and completely caters to the devil on our shoulder that men struggle to suppress whenever the idea of robbing a bank comes to mind. Can’t believe this was written by the same guy who penned two Rush Hour sequels and Speed 2: Cruise Control, but way to go Jeff Nathanson, you’re alright in my book.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 11, 2010 12:38 am

    great movie. great. movie.

    i think a lot of people don’t give it the credit it deserves.

    also, great post.

    • November 12, 2010 8:56 am

      You said it, this movie never really gets the credit it totally deserves. What a shame. Thanks for visiting!

  2. November 11, 2010 7:11 am

    One of Spielberg’s best, mainly because the film follows along with a great pace, as Abagnale goes from location to location, pretending to be somebody else. It was so good, and Hanks, and DiCaprio are just magnificent. Great Review my man!

    • November 12, 2010 8:55 am

      Thanks, man! Totally agree. Love how it just globetrots from one place to the next without dragging whatsoever, like there’s always a con to be played and Frank’s always gonna take advantage no matter where he is. What a smooth mothereffer, huh?

  3. November 11, 2010 8:09 am

    I liked this a lot more when I first saw it. When I watched it recently it lacked something for me. It felt more style over substance. There’s some great set-pieces but I thought The Terminal was much better (of the films Spielberg made in the 2000s).

    • November 12, 2010 9:06 am

      Pretty sure I only half-watched The Terminal on TV a while ago, should probably revisit that and give it my full attention one of these days. Will report back and thanks for the heads up.

  4. November 11, 2010 1:02 pm

    Ah, when Leo was thin.

    Good review, per usual.

  5. November 14, 2010 10:46 pm

    Leo was so handsome in this movie. I had to say it.

    • November 15, 2010 1:08 pm

      He was one smooth mother effer alright. Wasn’t just the sleight of hand that got him so much time in the sack.


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