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Catch Me If You Can
2002 - PG-13 - 141 Mins.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Frank William Abagnale, Jr. (novel)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen and Frank Abagnale, Jr. (cameo)
Review by: John Ulmer
"Catch Me If You Can" is based on the true story of Frank Abagnale, the most successful conman in history. By the age of 19, Frank had already posed as a pilot for Pan Am, paraded around as a medical doctor, and fooled everyone by taking an on-the-side-job as a lawyer. (By the way, he faked a Harvard-graduate diploma to become one.) During this time he cashed fraudulent checks at various banks around the country, and eventually around various places in the world. His is an amazing story, and this film is based on it.

There's no real plot to go into, as I have already given it to you. Other than telling you that the film opens when Frank is sixteen and runs away from home after his parents (Christopher Walken and Nathalie Baye) have a messy divorce, you pretty much have the setup for a light, fluffy, and altogether fun film.

Frank is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and the man hot on his trail, agent Carl Hanratty, is played by Tom Hanks. There isn't really a Carl Hanratty in real life, but it adds to the story. Frank, on the run, actually starts to become friends with Hanratty, who realizes Frank is just an adolescent and does not realize the eventual outcomes of what he is doing. Hanratty sort of adopts Frank, even after he is caught and thrown in a French prison. He helps him get transferred to an American prison, and then even gets him a job in the FBI for spotting fraudulent checks.

I read Frank William Abagnale, Jr.'s true-crime memoir, which was released a few decades ago. It differs from the film at times, and it isn't always as light-hearted as the film is. But in terms of pure, fluffy fun at the movies, "Catch Me If You Can" is a sure-fire hit. At times it seems to stray a bit too far off the path of realism, unlike the book, but that's part of the fun, really.

The film is entirely watchable, and doesn't try to become an epic. Steven Spielberg creates a real dazzler here; it is effortlessly watchable and even at two and a half hours long, it doesn't become overbearing. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and, unlike most critics, I thought Tom Hanks did a great job in his role.

I especially like how Spielberg captured the image of the '60s so well here, and John Williams' score fits the part of the film very well. And as for the cast, they are all matched perfectly to their characters. I especially liked Christopher Walken as Frank Abagnale, Sr., who steals every scene he is in. His performance was worthy of its Oscar nom.

If you just want to sit back and relax, "Catch Me If You Can" is the perfect film for you. There's nothing all that special in the film, but the film kind of becomes special because it is so easy to watch. I recommend "Catch Me If You Can" to anyone who can enjoy a movie for what it is.

"Catch Me If You Can" is a true popcorn flick, and maybe a little bit more.
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

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