Moviegoers are blessed with a wide selection of wonderful films this Christmas.
Hands-down, the most entertaining of this holiday season's fare is Steven
Spielberg's CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. Based on an unbelievable but true story, it
tells the life of a consummate con man, a teen named Frank Abagnale, Jr., played
by a perfectly cast Leonardo DiCaprio in his best work since TITANIC. He's
hilarious, convincing and supremely charming. Why has he been wasting his time
in disasters like THE BEACH?
While he is called the "James Bond of the sky" for his impersonation of airline
pilots, Frank's reasons for this masquerade isn't what you might guess. Once in
a pilot's uniform, the dashing young man -- he passed for being a decade older
-- attracted beautiful stewardesses. He also got free flights, but these were
just some of the freebies of his "job." What you may not realize is that, with
the uniform, he could easily cash bogus checks all over the country. In the FBI
parlance, Frank was a "paperhanger," making millions by passing bad checks.
In a telling early scene, his father, Frank Sr., played with a sparkle in his
eye by Christopher Walken, gives his son a checking account with twenty-five
dollars in it. More importantly, Frank Sr. gives his son fifty checks, with a
look that seems to say, "go forth and multiple with these checks." Frank Sr. is
a bit of a charlatan himself, and his son has to witness his father being
stripped of most of his worldly possessions by the IRS.
Frank Jr.'s "career" starts at about age 15 when, on the spur of the moment, he
decides that, rather than becoming a student at his new school, he will fake
being a substitute French teacher. From there, he goes on to impersonate a
pilot, a doctor, a Secret Service agent and a lawyer, among other occupations.
Most of the picture is structured as a cat-and-mouse chase with a deadly serious
FBI agent, Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), dedicating himself to catching Frank.
Carl's single moment of mirth, when he tells a knock-knock joke, gets the best
laugh of the movie. When they have occasion to communicate, these two
protagonists end up lecturing each other. Frank, who sees himself as
invincible, explains that his secret is that "people only know what you tell
them." To which, Carl adds simply, "The house always wins."
Frank is such a lovable rogue that you'll find yourself rooting for him to never
be caught. But when the house does win and the mouse is safely in the cage, the
story takes its most surprising twist.
Frank's story is so mesmerizing that you'll wish this almost two-and-a-half-hour
film was even longer. No matter how many stories it tells, you'll end up
wanting to hear more.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN runs a fast 2:20. It is rated PG-13 for "some sexual
content and brief language" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave the film *** 1/2, saying that he found it funny,
serious, and fascinating. He thought it was extremely well made and acted. His
friend Kyle, also 13, gave it *** 1/2 as well, remarking especially on how cool
the story was.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes