113 of 125 people found the following review helpful
"Catch Me If You Can" is the story of real-life con artist Frank Abagnale, Jr. who, in the late 1960's and early 1970's, when he was between the ages of 16 and 21, wrote $2.5 million dollars in bad checks and became one of the most notorious con men in American history. The film follows Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) from his early high school pranks to his check-printing operation and eventual capture in France five years later. FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) doggedly pursues Frank as he successfully impersonates an air line pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer, living the life of a playboy and cashing ingeniously forged checks all along the way.
"Catch Me If You Can" was directed by Stephen Spielberg and, along with Minority Report, signifies a revival of Spielberg's directing talent after fifteen years of mediocre-at-best filmmaking. This film is fairly light fare, but it is immensely entertaining, funny, touching, and impeccably cast. Frank Abagnale, Jr. is a perfect fit for Leonardo DiCaprio, and is probably his best role since "What's Eating Gilbert Grape". Tom Hanks seems to have abandoned his typically saccharine roles this year -much to his credit- and puts in a wonderful performance as sympathetic geeky G-man Carl Hanratty (along with a terrific showing in "Road to Perdition"). Christopher Walken was the only actor to receive an Oscar nomination for "Catch Me If You Can". His performance as Frank Abagnale, Sr., our protagonist's down-and-out father, deserved the honor. Frank Jr.'s awkward combination of admiration and pity for his father seems to have been a key motivator in his illustrious life of crime, and Christopher Walken really helps us understand that.
The real Frank Abagnale, Jr. is a successful security consultant these days, protecting businesses from white collar crime. He cooperated with and bascially likes the film, but is quick to point out that "Catch Me If You Can" is based on his biography of the same name that was written about 25 years ago. Mr. Abagnale says that some aspects of his experiences were exaggerated in that book and some have been altered for the movie as well. Whatever the inaccuracies, Frank Abagnale, Jr.'s immense intelligence, ambition, and guts are the most striking elements of the film. It's the rarity of finding all of these qualities in such abundance in one person that make Frank's character so fascinating, and make him one of cinema's most lovable antiheroes.
I highly recommend "Catch Me If You Can" for its great performances and its extremely entertaining story of an ingenious con man and his noble pursuer...made all the more interesting because the story is largely true.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
and the message is, "Sometimes, I'm gonna do a film where I just try to entertain you". And entertain it did!
Reviewers of the movie are at odds, either giving it high praise, when they recognize that it is just there to entertain the filmgoer, or calling it dreadful, when they expect every Spielberg movie to be a momentous event of special effects and storytelling. "Catch Me If You Can" is based on the life of a con man, who pulled his crimes as a teenager, and then reformed for the rest of a long life. The story engrosses the watcher, and Spielberg gives the film a light touch, a terrific cast, and fits it all into the eerily real culture of the 60's everyday life with costumes (wardrobe is outstanding), period sets, and a general feeling of wonder (Remember "The Wonder Years"?) that was the true 60's feel, devoid of momentous political events and the inevitable strife caused by war.
DiCaprio is featured as an odd duck, an obsessive compulsive trapped in escalating acts designed to make his father feel that his life is successful. He shows some great naivete, especially in the scene criticized by many with Jennifer Garner, and displays the genial and engaging manner that the real Frank must have had to get away with what he did.
Hanks is another believable work obsessive compulsive who chases him down and forms the nucleus of the nonviolent criminal teams that solve financial crimes in this country every day. Bringing Frank to the FBI feels a little unbelievable, but it DID happen, and it was based on Hanratty's understanding and faith in not only the genius, but also the need of Abagnale to outsmart the world. I'm sure it was a huge
financial success for law enforcement in the real world.
Many seem surprised at the fine flair that Christopher Walken displays as Frank's father, but Walken's career is full of moments like these, where he has flashes of a true craftsman, then does an over the top performance in his next role...kind of a roller coaster ride with this fine performer, you never know what to expect.
The audience clapped in the film I saw, enjoyed the music, had a great time...now that's entertainment! Catch Me If You Can blends light comedy with a background edge of why things turn out the way they do when families dissolve. It may be the most entertaining movie (short of My Big Fat Greek Wedding) of 2002; and although it doesn't deserve to win any awards....
sometimes Spielberg should just entertain us! He's earned it.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2005
Oh, my, what a wonderful movie this is.
This film, a "true story" about an audacious and clever con-artist--his flight from justice and eventual capture--is one of those movies that keep Mr. Spielberg firmly atop the pedestal upon which he so richly deserves to sit. It's simply a lot of fun--a great story, well told--and succeeds on almost every level that film attempts. The characters are multi-dimensional, intriguing and all sympathetic; the pacing is seat-of-the-pants; the direction is artful, but never at the expense of the story; the music another gem from John Williams (and uncharacteristic of his normal brassy fare); the acting is superb (and I hope that given this, The Aviator, and others that people will finally admit the sizable talent of the often unfairly hated DiCaprio); and the plot is a gem.
One aspect that I love is how DiCaprio's character is an awful con-man, reprehensible by every measure, and yet is just so very daring and intelligent that he demands our respect and admiration (and, sometimes, jealousy). Also, in his relationships with his parents (featuring a great turn by the normally out-of-control Christopher Walken), the policeman chasing him, his would-be wife and others, we see the real human being, inside, his dreams, hopes and failures. In the end, we care.
Finally, the movie gets style points for its retro-60's opening sequence and theme, and the subtle points that you may just miss on a first viewing (for instance, DiCaprio tracing handcuffs while talking on the phone to the police). Excellent, excellent movie that you'll watch more than once. Highly recommended.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2002
There is something truly exhilerating about convincing people you're something you're not, about the freedom that comes with giving yourself any identity you chose. I know the feeling: When I was kid I managed to pass myself off as twins for my whole seventh grade year and once invented a religion I had several people actually interested in. People believed me, because I believed me. Stern parental lectures eventually cured me of this tendency, but poor real-life con-artist Frank Abagnale had no such luck. "Catch Me If You Can" is based on his life from the age of 15 to the age of 19, during which he flew Pan Am as a co-pilot, was the Supervising Doctor in a Georgia ER, and Assistant Prosecuter in the State of Louisiana. The fact that he did not actually attend school for any of the above occupations had no effect on his activities whatsoever. He also forged checks to the tune of almost three million dollars; his forging so flawless even old time master forgers were in awe. And when it all finally came to an end, as of course it had to, he even managed to turn the end into a kind of triumph.
The film is based on Frank's autobiography, with Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale. He is absolutely terrific, radiating a kind of giddy joy he hasn't shown us in a long time. His Frank is good-hearted, good-natured, charming, but most importantly, fearless . People believe him, because he believes him. My favorite scene with him comes early: Starting a new school, Frank walks into his first class and on a complete whim pretends to be the substitute teacher. He is cheerfully holding parent-teacher conferences and planning field trips when he is finally found out.
Co-star Tom Hanks does a solid job in the role of the determined FBI agent who chased Frank obsessively for years. Tracking him down evolves into a kind of thrilling chessgame for the two of them, and there is a great running gag about their always talking on Christmas Eve. (The agent is at work because he has no outside life, and Frank calls him because he has no one else to call.) Dicaprio also has a strong chemistry with Walken, who plays Frank's father and subtle enabler.
The direction of Speilberg is typically superb, and the snazzy art direction and playful score contribute to the overall excellence. Chalk up another for the master.
In conclusion, all I can say is that this is one of the best movies I've seen this year, and certaining the funnest. I walked out of the theater feeling satisfied and happy, and, I admit, a little envious. Frank Abagnale led quite a life. He paid for it in the end, but still. My hat's off to you Abagnale, wherever you are.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2003
While I looked forward to seeing this movie, I was surprised at just how well it was done. DiCaprio and Hanks both give very good performances, but what hit it out of the ballpark for me was capturing the mood of both the era and the chase.
Films and books have an interesting way of turning outlaws into charming folk heroes. This is one of those films that realistically bucks that notion. It shows the slick charm and finesse that Frank Abagnale Jr (Leonardo DiCaprio) used to sneak onto airlines and into prolific jobs, but it also shows the emotional destruction ---both his as well as his friends' and family's--- that comes with living on the run. Abagnale did live lavishly at times, but always had the anxiety of looking over his shoulder and keeping his stories straight.
We also see Abagnale grow up witnessing his father (Christopher Walken) attempting less successful scams, thus planting the seed for Jr's career.
We also get a nice overview of how bank criminals committed bank check fraud before the "personal computer" era, how such crooks were able to evade quick detection of the checks they forged, and how one person's charm versus another's gullible nature can be a deceptive weapon.
All in all, this film does a great job showing why even a successful con-artist is not so successful. This film humanizes the con-artist without making us feel pity for him. The lack of pity for the scammer is partly due to the character of Hanratty (Tom Hanks), who makes numerous personal sacrifices (including working in a department of the FBI that his peers judge as tedious). When you see Hanratty getting little thanks and dire frustration while playing by the rules, you want to see Frank Jr get busted.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2005
Having seen Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator(a role which I think will win him an Oscar), I checked out the DVD of Catch Me If You Can. Leo plays con artist Frank Abagnale Jr., who in the '60s successfully passed himself off as several other people, among them airline pilot Frank Taylor, Secret Service man Barry Allen, and doctor-turned-lawyer Frank Connors, and wrote fraudulent checks totaling millions of dollars while he was using his various identities. As Frank Connors, Frank Abagnale Jr. was a doctor, a prosecutor, and an Attorney General candidate for the state of Louisiana. As the movie(which is based on Frank's memoirs) shows, Frank pulled off his act so successfully that it was four years before the FBI caught him. He was finally apprehended in France, where the bogus checks were printed. After getting out of prison, as seen in the movie, Frank went to work for the FBI's Check Fraud Unit, where his supervisor was Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent who pursued him. Tom Hanks plays Carl, the FBI man, and Christopher Walken has a fine performance as Frank's father, Frank Sr. Martin Sheen also is solid, playing Frank's future father-in-law, Roger Strong. Frank proposes to Roger's daughter, Brenda(Amy Adams), whom he meets while working as a doctor, but Frank abruptly runs out of his engagement party when he realizes that Carl and his fellow FBI agents are after him and that he couldn't get rid of his Frank Connors identity if he stayed married. Soon after, when he's conducting another ruse, this time training stewardesses, Frank flies off to France, where Carl catches him. In the movie, Frank escapes briefly after Carl brings him back to New York, but he is again caught, this time outside his mother's home. The movie doesn't give us just one reason why Frank turned to crime, but we get a few clues: his dad's problems with the IRS, the breakup of his parents' marriage(which resulted in his running away from home), and his need to make money really fast in order to survive. Also, Frank's mom, Paula(Nathalie Baye), as depicted in the film, did a little manipulating herself--for instance, she told Carl that she'd help pay the checks Frank had bounced. The movie also is a redemption story. Carl, who is wrestling with his own personal problems(his own divorce, not having seen his daughter), becomes a sort of father figure to Frank--and, as stated earlier, he ends up being Frank's supervisor at the FBI. While Carl uses a ruse to get Frank to open up to him(giving Frank permission to call his father while, unknown to both of them, Frank Sr. had died), he eventually earns Frank's trust. As the ending shows, in real life Frank helped the FBI crack numerous check fraud cases and formed a lasting friendship with Carl. To the impatient movie watcher, Catch Me If You Can seems overly long(two hours and 21 minutes, not including the extras), which I think drags it down to "only" a four-star rating. However, I think producer-director Steven Spielberg wanted the movie to be a character study of Frank and not just another Star Wars-type action flick--and in this regard, he does well. Leo's portrayal of Frank--the charming con artist who at the same time is very human--is believable, and Tom Hanks gives a commanding yet sympathetic performance as Carl. The bonus material on the second disc is excellent. In addition to interviews with cast and crew members and the story of how the movie was made, the material includes Frank Abagnale Jr.'s own discussion of how he became a con artist, his various occupations, how he was apprehended, and how his work with the FBI influenced banking practices. Frank himself served as a consultant on this movie, and his input helped give the film its early '60s authenticity. This movie has a great story with some interesting characters. You have to "catch" it.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2003
Steven Spielburg's second 2002 film is a dinosaur. It's an anachronism. It belongs to the time period in which it's set, a more innocent America where Charles Manson had not brought violence to the wealthy and Vietnam was still a winnable (and profitable) war. It's Catch Me If You Can, the story of con man Frank Abagnale, Jr., who may very well be the world's foremost expert on forgery and fraud. If that doesn't sound like a complimentary introduction, fear not; Catch Me a film's film and a throwback to the cinema of yore, when audio and video combined to make an experience rather than an assault on the senses.
Imagine a mixture of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and To Catch a Thief. Catch Me has the slow pacing and careful cinematography of Hitchcock at his finest, and Spielburg has forsaken his recent effects-laden shots for straightforward storytelling. Every individual shot is deliberately framed, with a care for detail not usually seen outside of a Lynch film. There are no explosions to distract the eye from character interaction, and the overall effect is that of an effortless and immersive film.
Leonardo DiCaprio, in one of his best (and best-developed) roles since Gilbert Grape, plays Frank Abagnale, a teenager growing up outside of New York. His father (played by Christopher Walken) is being investigated by the IRS, and Frank Jr.'s idyllic American life full of apple pie, WWII vets marrying their sweethearts, and large-finned cars is about to come crashing down. When he finds that what he's left with isn't to his liking, Frank embarks on a career of impersonation and fraud. He passes himself off as an airline pilot, a Harvard-educated doctor, an assistant prosecutor, and a recruiter for an airline stewardess program - all before his 19th birthday. When he starts passing bad checks - to the tune of four million dollars - he attracts the attention of straightlaced FBI Agent Tom Hanks, who manages to avoid his Hanks persona in favor of actual acting.
Catch Me is a character story, told through a series of events in Abagnale's life. It's funny at times, but the portrait that develops is of a sad, lonely, and almost pathetic child who runs and hides because he doesn't know what else to do. Hanks is like an automaton, relentless in his pursuit, and his grip on Abagnale only grows tighter with each narrow escape. It's not a deep meditation on a philosophical subject, or an artistic look at some overused postmodern cliché. Catch Me aims to entertain, nothing more, and succeeds admirably.
Without effects, a blazing soundtrack, and fast-paced action to drive the story, Spielburg ekes the most from Hanks and DiCaprio without resorting to hammy overacting. This, combined with the easygoing plot and fantastic camerawork, lend Catch Me an unusual amount of verisimilitude for a modern film: it's something to lose yourself in, where you no longer think "I'm watching a movie." That is an accomplishment worthy of note.
Final Grade: A-
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2002
I didn't know what to expect when I ventured to this movie other than I'm not normally a big DiCaprio fan. I can say now that this stellar cast and producers have put forth a strong showing, that is, if you can last through the nearly three hours.
Pay attention so you don't get lost with the foreshadowing. I believe it is necessary to help set up the ending of the film but I think it was also longer than necessary. Without getting into details to spoil the story, I was impressed that it was based upon a real story and that the time period seemed to be somewhat authentic and not overly played, particularly with Southern locales.
I recommend the movie if you have around 3 hours to kill and enjoy a story about the ability to turn a sour life into one that is redeeming. There's a lot of psychology and sociology in the film that begs to be used as examples for discussion at the collegiate level. I can't wait for the DVD - it'll be added to my collection.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2002
Those are perhaps the best three words to describe what Catch Me If You Can is, but it's not limited to that.
When I first heard of this movie, I had low expectations to say the least. The plot didn't seem like it was up to Spielberg standards, and at the time I didn't hold much respect for DiCaprio as an actor. Of course, I was proven completely wrong.
This was the most entertaining movie I have seen all year. Never for one single second did my eyes vear from the screen. My thoughts did not wander for even a single moment. I was mesmerized by Frank William Abagnale Jr.'s life's tale. It is truly amazing. Once you think that he can't top himself, he does. I don't want to reveal anything about the ending (even though it's not one of those big "surprise ending" movies) because it is so much better if you don't know. I guarantee you will be laughing out loud at the irony of the end.
But that won't be the only time you laugh - this movie is hilarious throughout! From the beginning where he impersonates a substitute teacher on the spur of the moment (which ends up lasting a whole week, when he is caught he was in the middle of planning a field trip), to all the ways he eludes FBI Agent Carl Handratty, to the afore-mentioned ending. It is sprinkled with so many jokes and gags that you will think it is a comedy...
...but there is also a serious dramatic edge. The other main plotline that the movie revolves around is Frank's family. When his parents divorce he is 16 years old, and that is when he runs off and starts his life of crime. It is clear that this plays a key role in Frank's life. Throughout his crimes, it becomes obvious he is trying to reclaim the loving life he had when his parents were still together.
Overall, Frank Abagnale's life is quite a ride. I have to admit, I personally envy him a little. He manages to live the high life as a criminal, and more than get away with it afterwards. I thought that this movie was more consistantly entertaining than the OTHER blockbuster, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which is quite slow through the middle. Catch Me If You Can was such an entertaining, fun, and hope-filled journey that not only can I easily see myself buying the DVD and watching it innumerable times, but I also plan on seeing it AGAIN this coming weekend. This will be one of the very few occasions that I have seen a movie twice while it is still in the theaters, and that is saying quite a lot because most movies aren't even worth the cost to see once (Analyze That) let alone twice in the same week.
See this movie for a fun time, but expect to feel some heavy emotions.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Based on a true story, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN provides a congenial theater outing.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Frank Abagnale, Jr., who, between the ages of 16 and 19, successfully impersonated an airline pilot, a physician, and a lawyer. In the process, he passed phony checks totaling millions of dollars. Tom Hanks plays Carl Hanratty, the nerdy FBI agent out to bust young Frank.
This is probably the best acting performance by DiCaprio since TITANIC, which isn't saying much, and Hanks has done better. However, both actors apparently had a lot of fun with their roles here, and it's that energy that makes CATCH ME IF YOU CAN a film worth watching. Also, Christopher Walken is wonderful as the enigmatic Frank Abagnale, Sr., whose business and marriage is ruined by the IRS, which is pursuing him for reasons left largely unspecified. And, while it was never clear to me whether the Old Man clearly understood the extent of his son's mischief, the occasional sly grin and whisper in the ear seemed to indicate that he admired and envied his boy's larcenous spirit and adventurous lifestyle.
This film is a flight into nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember the days when commercial air travel still had élan, when pilots were heroes, and when the politically correct "cabin attendants" were elegant "stewardesses". There's one comic scene involving Frank, Carl and an in-flight chocolate éclair that pointedly recalls that coach fare used to be more than an apple and bagged peanuts.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN drags a little by the end, and the lesson of the epilog might be that crime pays. However, it's a reminder that fact can be genuinely more entertaining than FX-laden fiction.