Catch Me if you Can

Catch Me if you Can on Blu-ray

Steven Spielberg directs what is, in many ways for him, a change of pace movie.

Catch Me If You Can is based on the early life of Frank Abagnale, Jr., a 1960's teenager who ran away from home when his parents divorced and spent the next few years leaving a trail of deceit and bad checks in his wake.

Well, the checks were in fact very good - they just weren't authorized and were therefore quite illegal.

Frank isn't a bad kid, but he's angry and hurt by his parents' breakup and chooses a unique, if not moral, way of coping.

Left to his own devices, he takes skills learned at his father's (played wonderfully by Christopher Walken) knee and applies them to help him survive.

He needs to make money, so he chooses a profession he thinks will pay really well. But he doesn't have time to qualify for the job so, ever the quick study, he passes himself off as an airline co-pilot and flies the friendly skies all over the place, learning in the process how to fake checks - and indeed how to build an entire persona.

This lasts a while, but the FBI as personified by agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks, in another great performance, looking kind of like Dan Aykroyd in "The Blues Brothers") is on his trail for his check bouncing and when they get really close it's time for Frank to move on to another persona.

So he becomes a doctor, talking his way into a management position in an Atlanta hospital. While there, he falls for young Candy Striper Brenda Strong (Amy Adams, who gives a wonderfully fresh-faced performance) and takes her to her estranged parents' (Martin Sheen and Nancy Lenehan) home to meet them and ask for her hand. Her dad is a big shot lawyer in the Louisiana state prosecutor's office, and this leads Frank to pass the state bar exam and become a lawyer in that office.

But Hanratty's dogged pursuit never wavers - the guy's like a dog with a bone, except that he's only chasing the bone - and at a party to announce Frank and Brenda's engagement he and his men arrive and force Frank into a quick exit.

So he heads to France to continue his reign of error. But justice eventually catches up with Frank and he's jailed - only to have his life take up a new twist while he's behind bars.

Catch Me If You Can may glorify a crook to a certain extent, but (much as with the Grand Theft Auto games) we also see clearly that there are consequences to Frank's actions and in the end he's a changed person with a great new life.

The movie has so many marvelous moments, including a hilarious scene when Frank dickers with a prostitute (Jennifer Garner) for a night of pleasure, and we don't want to spoil the fun. But this lightweight piece of fluff appears to have been a labor of love for most involved, and the fun they had shows on the screen.

DiCaprio is excellent as Frank Abagnale Jr., bringing freshness and energy to the screen in a role that almost seems tailor made for him. His is only one of many excellent performances, however; this may be a lightweight piece of fluff overall, but it's a hugely enjoyable one, lovingly shot and crafted.

Spielberg et al have given the movie a terrific 1960's look and feel, and John Williams contributes a nice, jazzy score that, mixed in with music from the period, helps keep the mood "pure". Williams truly is the master of his craft and each of his scores are well worth experiencing.

The Blu-ray is also very good. Presented of course in 1080p, at its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (which leaves small black bars above and below the picture on a 16x9 screen) the picture quality is very nice, indeed. The focus is soft in places, usually to create a mood, but when extreme sharpness is warranted, this BD comes through in spades. Colors and detail are great and the movie transmits its wonderful, sixties-style look to the digital disc very well.

The main audio track is DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 surround and it's very good, with excellent use of the surround channels (jet airliners going off in many directions, for example) to really make you feel part of the action. It's front heavy for the most part, however, but when the rear channels are used they're used well.

Other than that, the soundstage is wide and spacious, with very good channel separation and an excellent dynamic range. It isn't the most Low Frequency Effects channel-driven title, but that's okay; this is a more intimate, character-driven story so there isn't a lot of room for the really deep bass.

Extras are pretty well ported over from the earlier DVD release, but there's some good stuff here. There are featurettes covering just about every aspect of the film and the only flaw we can find with them (Not that we're looking to dump on them!) is that after a while the menus go from cute and enjoyable to "aw, do we have to sit through another one?" Fortunately, they're short.

Supplements include: Behind the Camera, a typical "making-of" feature with footage and interviews; Cast Me If You Can comes in five segments you can't watch all at once (hence the menu comment above); Scoring is a short but interesting meeting with the great composer John Williams, in which he talks about his work with Spielberg and his creative approach.

Frank Abagnale: Between Reality and Fiction is a four part doc (again, you can't watch them all at once) but is an interesting look at the real-life Frank Abagnale. The FBI Perspective showcases technical advisor William J. Rehder, a former FBI agent, about the film's accuracy; In Closing is another visit with the real-life Frank, who gives his impression and praise for the Spielberg film. There's also a bit from the cast and the director.

And there's also a collection of photos, in three categories: "Cast," "Behind the Scenes" and "Costume Gallery."

In all, Catch Me if you Can is an excellent Spielberg outing, an interesting story crafted well and told through some excellent performances from a skilled cast.

Catch Me If You Can, from Paramount Home Entertainment
141 min. 1080p widescreen (1.85:1), DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 surround
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Nathalie Baye
Produced by Steven Spielberg, Walter F. Parkes
Written by Jeff Nathanson, Directed by Steven Spielberg

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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