Con me if you can
In the days before America needed an Office of Homeland Security to keep clandestine tabs on innocent citizens, it was easy to con the pants off anyone by simply looking the part.Want to play doctor with a fetching young nurse? Fine, just grab a stethoscope, bone up on medical lingo from Dr. Kildare and let her beg for a complete gynecological exam.Catching a free airplane ride to Miami was just as easy in the innocent 1960s. All it took was a confident smile, a fake pilot card and a crisp new uniform.Lady Justice could be rolled like a drunk by reciting lines from Perry Mason and arriving in court with a three-piece suit.Such was life for Frank W. Abagnale Jr., a teen-aged dreamer who bounced more than $4 million in forged checks while passing himself off as a Pan Am pilot, a pediatrician and a prosecutor.Abagnale’s actual escapades come to life in Catch Me If You Can, a delightful yarn from director Steven Spielberg, who captures the look and feel of 1960’s America and the rubes who fell prey to Abagnale’s clever cons.Abagnale takes to thieving after his whorish mother runs off with her husband’s best friend. Divorce and debts send dad to the poor house and inspire young Abagnale to rescue the family jewels by impersonating high-paid professionals.The boy’s first ballsy move comes after he learns all about the airline business while posing as a reporter from a high school paper. Next thing you know, our hero has fabricated a fake pilot card, garbed himself in a flight suit, and taken a copilot seat inside a jet.The skies could not be friendlier as Abagnale goes coast to coast free of charge.Enticed by the thrill of the con, Abagnale starts forging Pan Am checks and quickly racks up millions in cash.It’s all fun and games to Abagnale, but serious business to the FBI and the agency’s lead fraud investigator, Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks).Hanks is at his best playing a stiff, but sensitive G-Man who bungles the chase for three years before nailing Abagnale in France.Leonardo DiCaprio, who seemed miscast as an Irish thug in Gangs of New York, is right at home as a gutsy and over-sexed teen-ager, who uses adult facades to con the garters off stewardesses, nurses and a high-priced call girl.Catch Me excels on every level. From its terribly creative opening credits to it’s satisfying, and true to life, conclusion, this movie rocks.Few directors have mastered the art of the chase like Spielberg, who thrilled us with Jaws and made us cry when government bad boys busted ET. This time he lures us in from the very start as federal fools do their best to thwart Abagnale in the days before government agents had the right to tap our phones, read our e-mails and plant microchips in our rectums.Spielberg’s solid supporting cast includes Christopher Walken as Abagnale’s loving if loser dad. It is Frank Sr. who turns the boy onto the con game by telling him that the beloved New York Yankees win because opponents are “can’t take their eyes off the pinstripes.”Until next time, Mr. Hernandez has left the theater to paper the town red with worthless checks.Nickey Hernandez is a former private investigator who plans to pass himself off as a gym teacher at the nearest all-girls college for the blind.