Reel Reviews

Film Reviews by a Real Person, Not a Critic

Catch Me if You Can

Title: Catch Me if You Can
Year: 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks
Rated: PG-13

Reel Reviews Rating:

Is it possible for a 16-year old boy to impersonate an airline pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer- AND get away with it?

Sound unbelievable?

Not if you’re Frank Abagnale Jr.

Catch Me if You Can is loosely based on a book of the same name written by Abagnale himself. The book and film focus on Abagnale’s true story of his escapades as a teenage con artist. Distraught by his parents’ divorce, young Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) runs away to New York City at age 16. Faced with the reality that he had to fend for himself, Frank resorted to check fraud. Since no adults took him seriously as a teenager, Frank started taking on false identities to gain respect and to facilitate his schemes. As I mentioned earlier, he successfully impersonated a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. Frank’s forged checks eventually catch the attention of FBI agent Carl Handratty (Tom Hanks), who pretty much chases the young con man all over the US and Europe.

Leonardo DiCaprio was in fine form as usual, but young as he looks, I found it somewhat unconvincing to see him play a 16-year old boy. During the first part of the movie his bangs are combed down his forehand to make himself look younger, but his body just looks too mature. At the same time, I can’t really think of a younger actor who could have played this role. Tom Hanks did ok as Carl, the stalwart but often stiff FBI man hot on Frank’s trail. However, I think that anyone could have played that role. Hanks didn’t really make it memorable or anything. Ed Harris could have done it, William H. Macy perhaps. Christopher Walken was very charming as Frank Sr., young Frank’s biggest role model. I don’t know how close Abagnale was to his father in real life, but the film establishes that Frank Jr.was strongly devoted to his father, constantly writing to him and trying to give him gifts.

Overall, I thought that the movie was ok. I wasn’t wowed by it, and I definitely wouldn’t have paid to see it in the theater, but it’s something decent to rent or to watch on cable. It’s rather long (about 2 1/2 hours), but it definitely could have been shorter since several scenes kind of dragged, while others were unnecessary.

I am curious about something. In Catch Me if You Can, early 1960’s airline pilots were portrayed as (albeit highly respected) playboys, always surrounded by a gaggle of gorgeous flight attendants. What I’d like to know is whether or not is an accurate depiction of how people perceived pilots back then. Furthermore, I’m just curious if during that time, all flight attendants were stunning 21 year old girls, or if this is just the usual Hollywood embellishment. Go to any airport nowadays and you’ll find that most flight attendants are rather old- with the exception of those who work for Singapore Airlines. I’m sure those women were hired primarily for their youth and looks.

What I did think was cool about the film was seeing how Frank created those fake checks and was able to cash them in, not to mention how he managed to trick so many people with all his impersonations. I kept thinking to myself as I watched, that this really happened. This movie is based, albeit loosely, on a real person. A teenage boy was able to pull all of this off!

Today, Abagnale uses his knowledge and experience with bank fraud for good. As mentioned on his website:

Frank W. Abagnale is one of the world’s most respected authorities on the subjects of forgery, embezzlement and secure documents. For over thirty years he has lectured to and consulted with hundreds of financial institutions, corporations and government agencies around the world.

Mr. Abagnale has been associated with the FBI for over 30 years. He lectures extensively at the FBI Academy and for the field offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. More than 14,000 financial institutions, corporations and law enforcement agencies use his fraud prevention programs.

Looks like being a crook paid off!

Anyway, if you want you want to rent something lighthearted this weekend, rent Catch Me if You Can. If you’re a DiCaprio, Hanks, or a Spielberg fan, you’re better off watch one of their many other films.

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January 23, 2006 - Posted by | Biopic, Comedy, Crime, Film Adaptation


  1. I thought this was a fairly entertaining movie, but when I say entertaining it doesn’t mean it has to be that great. For me, it falls into that category of movies that I would never go out of my way to see, but if there isn’t much on and I come across it, I will watch it for a little bit…

    I agree with you, it is a good rental movie for the first viewing.

    As for the airline pilot stuff, I believe that pilots were in fact viewed this way for quite some time… and I also think that flight attendants were primarily young women for a time… until equal opportunity laws started to come into effect.

    I thought DiCaprio did a pretty good job with this role, but I thought Hanks was ok even though he absolutely MANGLED that accent… I don’t think anyone ever gets a New England accent correct though… I have trouble with it and I am from there!

    Comment by J | January 23, 2006 | Reply

  2. I didn’t see this movie until it came on HBO, but I did want to see it in the theaters. I also thought it was very entertaining, but I think I was fascinated with this movie because it was based on a real person and real events, unlike that damn Blair Witch Project crap.

    Comment by Marvo | January 23, 2006 | Reply

  3. Hah… I loved going to see the Blair Witch in theaters, knowing ahead of time that it was fake. I thought it was really well done for what it was (and at the time…). The best part was walking out of the theater and hearing people actually say things like, “Oh my God, can you believe that really happened…” and “Wow, that must have been really scary to recover that footage…” …Simply stunning to me that people took it as real footage.

    Comment by J | January 24, 2006 | Reply

  4. Marvo- Yeah, I sometimes like movies that are based on a real person too. And yes, I didn’t care much for The Blair Witch Project. I got dizzy watching some of the scenes!

    J- I didn’t even realize that Tom Hanks was DOING an accent! Then again, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to sound like 🙂

    That’s funny that some of the people in your theater thought that Blair Witch was real. I have to admit that when they first started advertising only on college campuses, the ads make it seem so real since they would just put up flyers. This was about a year before I ever saw any tv commercials. But then I started realizng that it was just a small movie with unknown actors and a great marketing tactic.

    Comment by Toni | January 30, 2006 | Reply

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