Me and the Beard had a falling out last year after a strong talk about his self-indulgent A.I., but eventually he realised that I was right and look at the results: in the past 6 months he’s released his two most fun films in almost 20 years! Last summer’s Minority Report was first-rate science-fiction and now we get the Christmas treat that is “Catch Me If You Can”, a smart, exciting, often hilarious cat-and-mouse caper. The film is inspired by the incredible true story of Frank Abagnale who, as a teenager in the 1960s, cashed in millions of dollars in forged checks, flew around the world impersonating a Pan Am pilot, worked as a doctor in a hospital without ever attending medical school and passed the Louisiana bar exam even though he didn’t have any training as a lawyer!
Spielberg is really letting loose here, crafting a quirky and subversive picture filled with laughs, surprises and pretty women. And at the center of it all is Leonardo DiCaprio at his charismatic best. His Frank Abagnale is one suave son of a bitch! After seeing him moping through Gangs of New York, I was glad to see my Leo acting as confident and charming as in real life when we bar-hopped with the Pussy Posse. Now don’t be offended, we were only having a good time being young and I assure you we never disrespected any of the honeys. DiCaprio is surrounded by a solid supporting cast, notably Tom Hanks as the FBI agent pursuing the young con man and Christopher Walken as his father. Hanks is amusingly deadpan and makes the cop-and-criminal-needing-each-other dynamic feel like more than a cliché, and Walken moved me as a man stripped of all he’s got, including the woman he loves, yet maintaining his dignity. Which brings us to the film’s theme, basically that the best way to attract success is to look the part. There’s a touch of melancholy and loneliness to living a lie though, even if it’s a glamorous lie.
All in all, “Catch Me If You Can” is a truly crowd-pleasing picture, with more great scenes than in most TWO movies. But enough about that. How does drinking champagne in a hot tub with a respected entertainment reporter sound?