&#91MOVIE REVIEW&#93Breezy, empty movie one of Spielberg's best

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&#91MOVIE REVIEW&#93Breezy, empty movie one of Spielberg's best

The art deco, bebop-infused opening credits of Steven Spielberg's latest film, "Catch Me If You Can," makes it clear that for the next two hours, you're in for a fun, breezy, adventure-filled ride.

Too bad the ride doesn't go anywhere. But, then, who says it must?

This is the fun, true story (aren't they all these days?) of Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young man who passed himself off as an airplane pilot, a surgeon, a lawyer, a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker -- all before he turned 18 years old.

The story is told in flashback, after Frank has been captured in France. He's being returned to the United States by the FBI agent who tracked him down, Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), and along the way we get to see the highlights of Frank's mischievous, amazing life.

It begins when Frank is 15 and his family life is on the rocks. His dad (Christopher Walken) is having money problems and his mother seems less than sympathetic. Frank, like most teenagers, doesn't see his parents as real people, and only concerns himself with getting his family back together again. He's convinced that if he can make enough money to fix his father's financial problems, that his mom will return and they will be a happy family again.

He flees to New York where he soon turns to fraud. There he quickly discovers the limits of writing bad checks, and finds himself on the streets and in a lot of trouble.

One of his biggest problems is trust, or lack thereof. No one knows him, so no one will lend him credit (never mind that the only reason he wants credit is to commit fraud). But he soon discovers that people trust pilots, so he decides to dress as one to help him pass his bad checks.

It works and soon Frank discovers the other perks of being mistaken for a pilot. Passing bad checks cannot last forever, though, so Frank soon discovers he's equally adept at faking other professions. He impersonates a Harvard-educated doctor (to dangerous results) and a lawyer (equally disastrous, although not life-threatening).

All the while, he's relentlessly pursued by Agent Hanratty. Mr. Hanks does a fine job as Hanratty, although he doesn't have much to do. This is Mr. DiCaprio's film, and he plays the young con with conviction.

This is perhaps the best Spielberg film since "Jurassic Park," and certainly the simplest. No overwhelming special effects and no overwhelming storyline are in the way here.

Indeed, it's those few moments when "Catch Me If You Can" strives to be more than a simple adventure story that it sags and goes wrong. Those moments are few.

Spielberg shows, once again, how skilled a filmmaker he is, especially when there's nothing at stake and the story is inconsequential.

by Mark Russell
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