After a fun, animated credit sequence like you might find at the beginning of a Hayley Mills movie, we're treated to just about the worst way this film could begin. DiCaprio is shown on the set of To Tell the Truth flanked by two other men also pretending to be the main character, Frank Abagnale Jr.! Look, if DiCaprio is your star, you might want to avoid showing how much better other actors are at portraying the same part.
What follows is a recount of Abagnale's life from his teens to his turning to the life of crime that made him famous, rich, imprisoned, and then rich and famous again! The child of a financially put-upon family, Abagnale learns slowly but surely how to Con people into cashing bad checks that he creates and being none the wiser for the error. This kid is determined not to have the troubles his family had with money, so he launches into Con after Con to exceed in life.
Set in the last half of the 1960's Abagnale learns that impersonating an airline pilot (at the time, the celebrities of the sky) cause just about everyone to trust and respect him, not to mention give him just about any sum of money he could type on a check next to his Alias. From that point on our "hero" successfully impersonates a Pan American Airline Pilot, a Doctor(!), an Actor, and a Lawyer, all the while cashing bad checks, all the while acting more charming than Mel Gibson on Diane Sawyer and all the while being chased by the FBI as led by Tom Hanks' Carl Hanratty!
And is it ever fun to watch this cat and mouse game go! I didn't even wish DiCaprio would Drown or Freeze to death in this one, amazingly! Hanratty seems always one step behind Abagnale and is almost as sympathetic in his own nerdy little way as Abagnale is polished up to be. Tom Hanks is great as always in his amusing mix of affection for Abagnale and his frustration at his inability to bag this bad guy! The cat and mouse becomes buddy-buddy slowly as the pair keep in a strange form of taunting touch every Christmas Eve.
The acting is all around pretty damned good, and this film's Casting is right on! Christopher Walken and Nathalie Baye play young Frank's Parents with both humor and pathos. Catch me if You Can also features a number of Cameos ranging from Martin Sheen to Jennifer Garner to James Brolin to Frank Abagnale Jr., the real guy himself. All of these characters have at least a little something-something to do with DiCaprio's Character's iconic evolution into the world of big-time fraud.
And therein lies part of the problem in this film. On one hand it's refreshing to see such an accurate throwback to the late sixties, not just in subject matter, but in content. The "naughty" bits are expunged for only "suggested Sex" A-La James Bond; except for one hilarious "F-Bomb" by Hanks the Language is Clean; and there's none of the grittiness and bad news that you'd find attached to most crime capers. On the other hand, it's just not that accurate a portrayal. Many of the Frauds that Abagnale (under many an alias) runs are for thousands of dollars, and by the time he's through and legit he's embezzled millions. Still Spielberg showcases his exploits as if he's the greatest thing since Regis hosted a Game Show.
Where realism could take hold, a dreamy sanitized 1968 takes place, one free of Hippies and War and Grime and anything else too shocking to show in a PG-13. Aside for a relatively brief scene featuring a French Prison, all the Grittiness and Hardship that Abagnale must have gone through in real life isn't even hinted at in this film. Instead we see only the attractive and spiffy playboy life that we all know can be attained from the forging of bad checks while dressed as a Pilot. I think this Film Reviewing thing is for the Birds, and seeing that fraud leads to women, money, world travel and a future having movies made about yourself, I'm quitting and entering in to a life of crime!
Aside from the fact that this film is about as realistic as Dennis Kucinich's chances of ever winning the DNC Nomination, I still have to give this film Four Stars out of Five! Taken as a Biography it's not quite up to a factual par, but taken as a movie in and of itself, you'll have yourself a good old time! Hell, there's no such thing as an Uruk Hai either, and I gave Return of the King Four and a Half Stars! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go buy this film on DVD! I... I wonder if they'll take a check!
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