Catch Me If You Can

on December 25, 2002 by Annlee Ellingson
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Ostensibly a light caper, "Catch Me If You Can's" shiny wrapping paper of clever counterfeit schemes, pretty girls and fairytale cinematography belies the larger, richer themes that attracted such heavyweight talent to the project: Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Frank Abagnale Jr., a real-life con man who popped up on the FBI's radar for bank fraud when he was still a teen, and Tom Hanks portrays Carl Hanratty, the federal agent who hunts him down--and ultimately serves as a surrogate father.

It's a stunning pairing. DiCaprio, who doubles up "Catch Me" with "Gangs of New York" this holiday season after a two-year hiatus following "The Beach," demonstrates again why he continues to be so sought after. He transforms onscreen from a guileless kid to a crafty criminal, yet ever a child--he shows true fear and bewilderment when his back is turned on a con; he flips a desk lamp on and off out of nervousness and boredom; he demands that his foil tell him the truth at all times. Hanks, meanwhile, is endearing as the desk jockey with the Boston drawl on his first awkward gig in the field, so serious-minded that his attempt at a knock-knock joke concludes with the punchline "Go f--- yourself," so sensitive that he vows to extradite Frank from unfriendly French hands.

Beyond this double threat, however, are the deft hands of director Steven Spielberg, scribe Jeff Nathanson and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who have crafted a film with a fully developed supporting cast (with the exception of the procession of ditzy girls Frank seduces--does not one female see through his ruse?); with such rich details as an uncooperative slide projector and a load of Hanratty's white dress shirts coming out pink in the wash due to a stray red baby sweater; with a moving camera that emulates a lifestyle ever on the go and soft, filtered lighting that bathes everything in a magical glow.

With a story about a boy betrayed by his parents who will risk anything to give them back what they have lost, material and non-.Of particular note, too, is John Williams' jazzy, poppy, catchy score, which perfectly captures the picture's deceptively light tone. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Nathalie Baye and Amy Adams. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by Jeff Nathanson. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Walter F. Parkes. A DreamWorks release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some language. Running time: 140 min

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