"Catch Me If You Can" If You Can
With a winter season full of Quidditch games, rampaging orcs, and British super spies dodging giant laser cannons, it's quite a kick to see the biggest powers that be in Hollywood get together to make a good old fashioned film the likes of which hasn't been common since the 60s.
Catch Me if You Can tells the "sort of" true story inspired by the life of Frank Abagnale, who was able to masquerade as an airline pilot, doctor, lawyer, and college professor all between the ages of 16-21. Oh yeah, and on top of that, he mastered phony check schemes that enabled him to pocket nearly $3 Million in cash!
Leonardo DiCaprio is great fun as Abagnale. A quick learner and charmer, he shows that with the right attitude, and a large set of balls, it's quite easy to get people to believe most anything he says, or pretends to be. In an early scene he goes to a new high school, and after being harassed by a few of the jocks, he decides to write his name on the blackboard and teach the French course, since as luck would have it, the real teacher is out that week and he sends the real substitute home.
His parents are called in and told by an astonished principal, "Your son has been teaching the French class, and even had a paretn teacher conference!" His mom is disgusted, but his dad, played masterfully by Christopher Walken, grins with a sort of "That's my boy!" look about him.
Walken gives an amazingly uncharacteristic low-key performance as a loving father who wants to make everything right, but his troubles with the IRS and continual little white lies put a strain on his marriage. When faced with a surprise divorce announcement, young Abagnale runs off to New York with his $25 checking account, and begins a life of deception that would be almost unbelievable, had it not been based in reality.
After "buying" a Pan Am Airlines Pilot outfit, he finds he can cash bad checks much more easily and can even get free flights on other airlines. It's a great life, until Agent Carl Hanratty, played by Tom Hanks in another great low-key performance, starts to chase him down. And it's a chase that lasts nearly 5 years before he finally gets his man.
Speilberg weaves a great story that actually starts with Abagnale's apprehension and goes backwards from there. You know he's gonna get caught, but the thrill is wondering exactly how it's trying to go down.
Like a serial killer that wants to stop killing, Abagnale continually calls Hanratty, almost utilizing him as a father figure, begging him to catch him. In one early scene, he actually tells him what hotel he's staying at, but thinking it's just a joke, Hanratty ignores the tip.
As a comic book fan, I liked seeing the copies of The Flash sitting by Abagnale's bedside. With his super power being "The Fastest Man Alive", it was a subtle hint of things to come. He even uses The Flash's alter ego "Barry Allen" as an alias later in the film, to great effect.
The audience at the press screening was enthusiastic and entertained throughout. Even if you're not a big DiCaprio fan, I'd recommend it. It's nice to see Speilberg make a film that doesn't have to rely on special effects for a change. It's just a 100% kick to watch from start to finish.
And hats off to Walken for stealing every scene he's in. I would not be surprised at all to see him nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor this time around.
I'm also interested in reading Abagnale's book of the same title to see how much the movie really changed things. I tried to get an interview with him, but was told that he, "..is not granting any more interviews as he has already fulfilled his contractual requirements for DreamWorks."
The real Abagnale apparently has some issues with the film. You'll notice in the opening titles (brilliantly animated by the way) that it says, "Inspired By", instead of "Based on a True Story." As Abagnale points out on his website, the film grossly misrepresents the amount of money he stole, among other things. As he states on his site, "I consider my past immoral, unethical and illegal. It is something I am not proud of." Of course, his past enabled him to get outrageous speaking fees as he earns millions of dollars a year to talk about fraud prevention, so things aren't all that bad for the guy. Elsewhere on his site, it states his speaking fee is $25,000, but will be increased to $50,000 once the movie is released.
On a scale of 1-10, I'd rate it a 9. The film opens Christmas Day, the same day as Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York", also starring Leonardo DiCaprio debuts.