Catch Me If You Can (2002) (PG-13)

I discovered recently what is known as the Spielberg "running man trilogy". I had no idea what this was until I was researching "A.I." and came across the term. It's simple enough: a man is going towards or away from someplace and being pursued either by the memory of his past of by an actual physical being or perhaps both. The protagonist is sometimes flawed, but you can empathize with him. These are the characteristics of the three movies that Spielberg made "A.I.", "Minority Report", and "Catch Me If You Can".
When you watch "Catch Me If You Can" I'm not sure if you could tell that it was Spielberg, the director is out of his usual element and so is composer John Williams whose score in this film is sensationally different from anything else he's done. The vibe of the film resonates with the 40s. Although it's set in the 60s all the characters grew up in the 40s and thus those influences flow over into the latter decades.
"Catch Me If You Can" tells the story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., who by the time he was twenty had already impersonated a doctor, a lawyer, and an airplane pilot—fooling everyone and conning Pan Am out of a few million dollars. It's also the story of Carl Hanratty who is the FBI agent who is tracking Abagnale down.
It's the story of the house that Frank grew up in, shattered and confused and how his father and his mother were such important forces in his life. His father, Frank Sr., is played by Christopher Walken in a great way. The man unknowingly taught Frank all there is to know about conning and how people think with simple gestures like giving someone a necklace.
What makes this movie work is how it addresses Frank's age without making him look really young. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Frank Jr., and although at times he looks thirty, the way he carries himself is completely adolescent. The frivolous spending and the lack of understanding of how romance works is uncomfortably effective. One scene has him buying his father an expensive car because he thinks that it will make his mother and father get back together.
Carl Hanratty is the other side of the coin of "Catch Me If You Can" and he's caustic and bitterly sardonic. I was not a fan of Tom Hanks until I saw this movie, he shines as the FBI agent being the comic relief of the movie, but not overdoing it.
All-in-all I'd say that the approach that Spielberg uses is very much Scorsese, which is not a bad thing. I've said many negative things about Spielberg because I think that he overdoes the sappy scenes, but let me be clear. A bad Spielberg picture is still a really good everybody-else's film. He is one of the best current directors and has many classics under his belt.
"Catch Me If You Can" adds to Spielberg's repertoire.
On a side note Amy Adams and Martin Sheen both give small but good supporting performances.
This movie is curious because you cheer for both sides of the narration because neither is strictly the hero. You empathize with Frank because you see what makes him do the things he does; and yet, you root for Carl while he tracks the boy down.
The effortless style of the movie is what makes it great. Whether it's a shot of Frank running away from home or a surprise cameo appearance by Jennifer Garner, "Catch Me If You Can" is a biopic at its best.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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