Movie Reviews
10:29 am
Mon January 6, 2003

Catch Me If You Can

"Catch Me If You Can" reaches back into Spielberg's lyrical relationship with childhood by showing a dysfunctional family turned right by some very wrong moves,...

Leapin' Leo!!! The boy can act! With iconic Steven Spielberg directing, Leonardo DiCaprio finally has my attention in his second big-picture opening in December, "Catch Me If You Can." I had much to say about Daniel Day-Lewis in "Gangs of New York" and little about Leo. But his Cary-Grant turn as a young '60's con man hounded by straitlaced FBI check-fraud specialist Tom Hanks is smooth and understated, boyish but adult, sexy but not trashy.

Based on the autobiography of Frank Abagnale, Jr., this tale takes us back to Spielberg's fanciful yarns and happily away from the recent bleak allegories like "Minority Report." In short, Spielberg has brought out the boyish man in Leo, and who better than the director of "E.T." and numerous other box-office heavyweights whose thematic underpinnings come from assaults on the integrity of the home.

Using charming bad-boy Christopher Walken as Leo's dad is another of the director's genial touches-a loving father, michievous and loyal, whose romantic spirit endears his son and us while French mom divorces Walken and marries a very Rotarian James Brolin. Never once do you doubt Walken is the source of DiCaprio's love of the romantic scam, dressing up to impress the ladies and conning the rich out of a few bucks, mostly Pan Am stewardesses and the airline itself.

"Catch Me If You Can" reaches back into Spielberg's lyrical relationship with childhood by showing a dysfunctional family turned right by some very wrong moves, engagingly presented in the old-fashioned scams Leo spins pretending to be a pilot, physician, and lawyer. Morality aside, it's fascinating adventure for dreamers and those who don't want to spend the effort required to enter glamorous professions.

My favorite moment expressing Spielberg's longing for family connection comes on one of the many Christmas Eves Hanks and Leo spend on the phone enjoying their cat and mouse game. Hanks exclaims, "I know why you called. You don't have anyone else." Hanks's laugh is perfectly pitched at the loneliness of Leo's wandering, rootless life.

With the mid-20th century Hollywood animated credits, a combination of Woody Allen and James Bond, to the elegantly jazzy score of John Williams (sounding ever so much like Hitchcock's Bernard Hermann), this film marks the new career of a young star and the affirmation of a noted director with many years of new old stuff ahead.