Time magazine critic review
Catch Me if you Can


DiCaprio Sparkles

by David Ansen


Catch Me if you Can
Opens Dec. 25

The teenage runaway Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) was a child prodigy of crime. By the time he was arrested at 21 he had cashed millions of dollars in forged checks and had successfully impersonated an airline pilot, a doctor, a lawyer and a teacher, with a combination of charm, charisma and chutzpah. His true story (cleverly adapted by Jeff Nathanson) is the basis for former child prodigy Steven Spielberg's zippy "Catch Me If You Can," a delicious cat-and-mouse game flecked with intriguing Oedipal undertones.

As the mercurial mouse, DiCaprio sparkles, far more comfortable in the ever-changing skin of this slick chameleon than he is in Scorsese's epic. The dogged cat is FBI Agent Carl Hanratty (a droll, buttoned-down Tom Hanks), always one methodical step behind his prey. As Hanratty's pursuit drags on from year to year, his resolve never wavers, but his enmity evolves into an almost paternal concern for his young foe. Meanwhile, Frank's real dad, Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken), looms behind his son's every larcenous deed. He's a charming, fast-talking failure whose slippery relationship with the truth and firm belief in the importance of appearances provide the template for his son's life of deception. Walken's performance is hilarious, poignant and full of surprises.

It's nice to see Spielberg in a larky, relatively modest spirit.

Leonardo DiCaprio tries to outwit and outrun the law as a young con artist in 'Catch Me if You Can'

'Catch Me' is never less than engaging; all that's missing is a proper crescendo. The picture moves along briskly, even at two and a half hours, but it seems to be running on cruise control. Spielberg has caught the sunny, primary-color spirit of the prewar '60s, the American optimism that Frank Jr. both exemplifies and parodies. Frank lives life as if he were an actor in a movie, his costumes determining his identity, his fate dependent on improv, with all the mundane, boring parts (school, job training) edited out. Like Spielberg, he's a firm believer in cutting to the chase.