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"Catch Me If You Can" Review


Title: Catch Me If You Can

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Garner, Martin Sheen, Christopher Walken

Written by: Jeff Nathanson

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content and brief language.

Review by Stephen Silver

A kinder, gentler, "Talented Mr. Ripley," Steven Spielberg's new film "Catch Me If You Can" represents a return to pure entertainment for the director, after a half-decade of "important" films like "Saving Private Ryan," "A.I." and "Minority Report." "Catch Me' may not make a profound social statement, but it's still a supremely enjoyable film.

"Catch Me If You Can" could be construed as a glorification of criminality, which is certainly something new for Spielberg, although the protagonist is certainly far from unlikable. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Frank Abignale, who as a teenager in the 1960s used a check fraud scheme to steal millions of dollars while impersonating an airline pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. Tom Hanks plays his foil, a federal agent who pursues Frank over the course of several years.

Spielberg's usual obsession with young men and their parents (especially fathers) is as apparent here as anywhere, as it becomes clear before long that the DiCaprio and Hanks characters are using each other to make it for the deficiencies of their own family lives. Christopher Walken, in his best performance in years, plays Frank's sad-sack father, a man not all that different from Hanks' lonely agent.

The 60s of "Catch Me If You Can" is very different 60s from the one normally depicted in Hollywood films of the past two decades. While it doesn't exactly make an effort to make the time seem "innocent," there's not a hippie or drug or Vietnam reference in sight. The film also features some great music from the era, and the scenery and costumes look authentic without appearing showy.

While it comes across at first as a "small film," due to the absence of the important themes normally associated with Spielberg's historical and futuristic pictures, Catch Me' does sport some brilliantly elaborate setpieces, including an elaborate chase sequence set in Miami's airport that's even better than the similar mall scene in "Minority Report."

And while "Minority Report" abandoned its highly original premise halfway through in favor of rote plot conventions, "Catch Me If You Can" wisely avoids falling straight into the "Goodfellas"/"Casino"/"Blow " "rise and fall of a young rich guy" formula- there's no loathsome wet-blanket female character, and Frank doesn't even become a coke addict!

While DiCaprio wasn't absolutely right for his role in the otherwise brilliant "Gangs of New York," his adult-who-looks-like-a-kid persona fits Frank Abignale just perfectly. He's a 27-year-old playing a teenager playing a 27-year-old, something that apparently only DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire are capable of doing. And as Tom Hanks enters middle age, he is expanding his range further and further with every role; he may be the good guy but he's still the antagonist. There's also a memorable, out of nowhere scene with Jennifer Garner (from "Alias") as a child star-turned-hooker.

Few movies in 2002 had as much star power (in front of the camera or behind) as "Catch Me If You Can," and I'm happy to report that it lives up to expectations. It may not be better than this year's previous Hanks or DiCaprio vehicle, but it's certainly better than the last Spielberg film.

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