Catch Me If You Can [Blu-ray]

It’s sorta odd that Catch Me If You Can has not been out on Blu-ray before this. Released in 2002, it’s from a major studio, has a huge director, arguably two of the biggest actors of the last 20 years, and was a big hit with audiences and critics alike. Whatever the reason, it’s been rectified with a pretty average Blu-ray release. The movie is good, but the Blu-ray is a bit blah. If you’re a 16-year-old and your parents get divorced, what is the first thing you think of doing? If you said, “forge checks and pretend to be an airline pilot,” then you may one day get Leonardo DiCaprio to make a movie of your exploits directed by Steven Spielberg. And, if you’re lucky, the endeavor will turn out as good as Catch Me If You Can did in 2002. If you’re not lucky, it will be directed by Michael Bay and will be awful.

There is a continual light and fun vibe to DiCaprio’s jaunt through the 1960s as he plays the real-life teenage con man Frank Abagnale, Jr. Running away from his parents divorce, he pretends to be a pilot, a doctor, and an attorney, all while financing a lavish lifestyle by passing bad checks. Hoping to do enough of something to get his dad (Christopher Walken) and mom (Nathalie Baye) back together, he takes advantage of a more trusting time where pilots were rock stars, apparently. While no one seems to be harmed by his fake identities, the bad checks do draw the attention of FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), who begins to chase Frank and becomes something of a surrogate father.

The surrogate father thing has the dual task of tying the story together but also feeling a bit forced. It doesn’t really work and balloons what should be a 90-minute airy romp into 140 minutes of “meaning.” Everything else works just fine. DiCaprio and Hanks are at their very best, both likeable and taking the material seriously. The script, by Jeff Nathanson, takes what could be movie-of-the-week episodes and builds a cohesive plot. The music by John Williams is time period familiar though it tells its own story. And the title credits make you wish that all title credits were these title credits. They’re seriously maybe the best ever.

I don’t really think the real 1960s were the same as Spielberg’s vision of the 1960s in this movie, but Abagnale’s criminal run probably wasn’t as smooth and exciting as this movie, either. It doesn’t matter; the 1960s in the movie are great, Frank is great, and Catch Me if You Can is what a movie should be--something better than reality. Thanks to Spielberg, it’s done perfectly. First off, it’s a bit weird that this movie came out 10 years ago but this release isn’t being advertised as the “10th Anniversary Edition” or something. Probably because that would have required Paramount put a little effort into this disc, and they clearly didn’t want to. As noted in the intro, this isn’t the most impressive Blu-ray release ever. The disc doesn’t come with a DVD, an electronic copy, or even very interesting cover art. It’s not surprising that Spielberg, DiCaprio, and Hanks don’t bother with a commentary, but neither does anyone else. Jeez, is Frank Abagnale, Jr. still alive? If so, hook him to a commentary receiving machine and get him talking.

The special features included are leftovers from a previous DVD release, so if you are a fan of the film, you’ve probably seen them all. They also are often broken into small segments, but there is no ‘play all’ function for each section. So, when there are five sub features for one main section, you have to choose them all individually, even if they are only two or three minutes long. That’s a pain for a lazy guy like me. I’m gonna have to pay someone to chose the segments for me.

What you do get is about an hour of behind-the-scenes stuff and interviews, broken up into various categories. A 15-minute overall featurette called “Behind the Camera” seems designed to let the people of 2002 know that this isn’t a dark sci-fi movie. Spielberg was coming off of A.I. and Minority Report and must say “this is a fun, light, fun, easy breezy, fun, fun, full of fun type of movie.” He really uses the word “fun” about 50 times. A lot of time is spent on the sets, costumes, props, and cinematography, and all those people say “fun” a lot too. This movie is fun, dammit!

Since “Behind the Camera” handles the overall info, the rest of the extras are more specialized, focusing on the cast, the music, the real story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., and the technical support from ex-FBI agents for the Tom Hanks character. This is where the sections are broken down into sub-sections and the “play all” feature would be helpful. All this is good stuff as far as it goes, but if you’re upgrading to Blu-ray, you should expect to see the same ol’, same ol’.

A movie of this caliber--not exactly a weighty classic, but a good caper movie made by ultimate professionals--deserves better than this release. You do get the glorious HD picture, which looks good with all the kooky 1960’s costumes, sets, and props, but not much else that impresses.