Catch Me If You Can
with Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Jeff Nathanson, Frank Abagnale Jr.
by Chad Van Wagner
Stephen Spielberg is cranking ’em out these days. Hot on the heels of his overrated Minority Report comes Catch Me If You Can, a retro chase picture that’s about as different from the Fugitive-in-the-future Report as possible. Fortunately.
The premise is simple: Leonardo DiCaprio is a teenager who discovers a spectacular gift for the con, and Tom Hanks is the agent sent to track him down. The film is a blast in the way only this kind of film can be: It’s great to watch DiCaprio boldly charm his way into outrageously dangerous situations, and amusing (and sometimes hilarious) to watch Hanks get left in his dust after being this close to nailing him, time after time.
Catch Me If You Can isn’t really a comedy, however. DiCaprio does what he does because of a poor relationship with his father, and Hanks unwittingly fills in that role. This provides the meat of the film, and adds an extra dimension to the chase. Beyond that, explaining the film would involve a scene-by-scene run-through, since this is entertainment, first and foremost. Which, it must be said, is where Spielberg belongs. Despite the critical and commercial success of Minority Report, Schindler’s List, A.I., etc., Spielberg works best in a crowd-pleasing mode (ironically, it was exactly this tendency that compromised the serious work of the other films mentioned here.) From its Saul Bass-inspired opening to its more ironic than ironic conclusion; Catch Me If You Can is Spielberg’s best in many moons. Let’s hope he continues to follow this muse.