Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) has been an airline pilot, a surgeon and an Assistant District Attorney for the great state of Louisiana. Heí also written over $2.5-million in fraudulent checks, making him one of the FBIís ten most wanted. But whatís most amazing heís done all of this without graduating from High School and before the age of 20, FBI special agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) more than a bit surprised that the supposedly hardened criminal mastermind heís been diligently tracking is nothing more than a young kid with daddy issues.
Hereís what I wrote about this film in my theatrical review way back in December of 2002 (and, remember, what I write about is a reflection of what was going on cinematically at that time so please keep that in mind when reading):
ďIf I didnít know better, Iím tempted to think December is Leo-Palooza at the Cineplex. Absent from the big screen since The Beach in 2000, now back with Martin Scorseseís Gangs of New York and Steven Spielbergís Catch Me If You Can, both opening within a week of each other, itís a full-out Leo assault!
Personally, Iím happy to have him back. Arguably the most gifted young actor of his generation, Leonardo DiCaprio has definitely been a victim of his own success. Leo bashing was all the rage there for a while after his monster smash Titanic. Following that up with the pretty-but-empty Man in the Iron Mask and the dramatically inert The Beach didnít help. But now, working with two of Americaís greatest living directors, something tells me Leo-mania could be in vogue once again.
Of the two films, DiCaprio is in his element in Spielbergís film. Catch Me If You Can is based on the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., a notorious con artist and check forger who in a brief period of time masqueraded as a pilot for Pan Am, an emergency room doctor and an assistant District Attorney for Louisiana. All this before the age of 20 and without ever graduating from High School, Abagnale managed to forge and cash over $2.5 million in bad checks making him one of the FBIís ten most wanted.
DiCaprio revels in the opportunity to play around in a character so mischievous and fun. Itís a nimble performance more akin to a skillful tap-dance than a dramatic turn and the starís smile alone could carry the film by itself if not for the fact the actor is just so darn good in every other respect, too.
Maybe that is why it stalls out so much whenever DiCaprio isnít on screen. This film is as thin as a pancake. Granted, if the movie is a pancake, Spielberg doesnít forget to skimp on the butter and maple syrup, crafting one of the tastiest dishes Iíve seen all year. If Ďlight and breezy filmmakingí were included in Websterís Dictionary, the definition would include instructions to watch Catch Me If You Can.
Still, this doesnít do much to expand the directorís canon. Maybe after descending into darker depths with A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and this summerís excellent-until-that-ending Minority Report Spielberg felt he needed to retreat to more familiar territory. Much like E.T., Hook, Empire of the Sun and others this is another in his long line of ĎLost Boyí tales. All Abagnale wants is a father, his string of successful impersonations nothing more than an amusingly complex cry for help.
Heís got two father figures to choose from. Abagnaleís real father Frank, Sr. (Christopher Walken, simply wonderful) is a failing businessman from whom he first learns the power of illusion. He also discovers how those illusions, if not properly maintained, can come crashing down. In his fatherís case, not only in the destruction of his business, but also in the failure of his marriage to his French wife Paula (Nathalie Baye), a woman he met while in the military and on leave in Paris.
Abagnaleís second father figure is the man trying to catch him, FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks). Hanratty makes it his lifeís mission to catch the gifted con artist, growing to respect the talented young man with each new grift. At one point, the truth of Abagnaleís true search clicks for Hanratty during a Christmas Eve phone conversation when the agent exclaims to the flustered kid, ĎYouíve got no one else to call!í It isnít money the boy is after, itís a fatherís respect and admiration, and Hanksí sly chuckle and twinkled brow is all thatís necessary to verbalize an internal realization.
As fun as Catch Me If You Can is itís still incredibly slight and lightweight. No problems there, really, save that there is no reason Spielberg needs to more than 140 minutes to tell such a paper-thin tale. His hip, retro-cool Sinatra-esque (love that swanky John Williams score Ė the composerís best in years) handling of the film is wonderful, sure, but that doesnít mean I should give him a free pass for self-indulgence in regards to running time. The sleek and cool Ď60s style heís going for works, but William Wyler or John Frankenheimer would have told the same story in just over 90 minutes, and thereís no reason to expect less from Spielberg.
Luckily heís got DiCaprioís energy to carry him to the end credits. Without the young actor, I canít imagine Catch Me If You Can being worth the chase.Ē
Iíd forgotten just how entertaining so much of Catch Me If You Can could be and just how wonderful DiCaprioís performance was. Iím tempted in some ways to say it is one of his all-time best, the actor rising to playful yet complicated heights speaking to the emotional truisms at the heart of the piece. Movie is still too long and it does stumble a tiny bit whenever Abagnale isnít front and center, but that doesnít make it any less fun, and I had a grand time watching it again at home on Blu-ray.
Catch Me If You Can is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.85:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as French, Portuguese and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and features optional English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
Extras are ported over from the previous DVD release and include:
∑ Catch Me If You Can: Behind the Camera (17:09)
∑ CAST Me If You Can: The Casting of the Film (Five parts, varying lengths)
∑ Scoring: Catch Me If You Can (5:25)
∑ Frank Abagnale: Between Reality and Fiction (Four parts, varying lengths)
∑ The FBI Perspective (7:07)
∑ Catch Me If You Can: In Closing (4:59)
∑ Photo Galleries
All of the featurettes are solid and well worth watching, the ones on the score, the FBI and the real Frank Abagnale the standouts. All-around itís a pretty thorough set of extras, and for once I kind of donít mind that nothing new was added for this Blu-ray release.
Catch Me If You Can is not great Spielberg, butís itís awfully, awfully good all the same, featuring a performance from Leonardo DiCaprio ranking as one of his absolute best. Paramountís Blu-ray upgrade is a solid one, making this disc extremely easy to recommend.