"Catch Me If You Can"


"Catch Me If You Can" | Mike Parnell

Steven Spielberg (center) directs Leonardo DiCaprio (left) and Tom Hanks in 'Catch Me If You Can.' (DreamWorks)
Spielberg has crafted a movie dealing with issues historically important to his films. The movie may look like just another crime caper, but it asks deep questions about family and relationships.

Steven Spielberg's latest movie, "Catch Me If You Can," is the story of a young teenager who has been raised with this mindset, and how he uses it to travel the world and be whoever he wants to be.           

"Catch Me" is inspired by the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. He ran from the FBI while impersonating an airline co-pilot, a doctor and an attorney—all before he was 20. Along the way he forged checks for over 4 million dollars.  

In the movie, hot on Frank's trail is Carl Hanratty, an FBI agent who has no life, just work, so his life becomes the pursuit of Frank.           

Frank is aided in his check forging by the skills he learned from his father. Frank Sr. is a man who always gets what he wants. For example, he loves telling of how he got his wife— a dancer in a show—while he was in World War II France. He didn't speak a word of French, but was the one who took her back to America.   

Frank Sr. owns a stationery business that gives Frank Jr. the technical skills to forge checks. Frank Sr. also teaches his son that image is everything. Perception trumps reality, according to Frank Sr. This adds to Frank Sr.'s larger problem: He doesn't know how to keep the things, and relationships, he acquires.             

Frank Sr. loves to tell a story of two mice who fall into a bucket of cream. One mouse gives up and drowns. The other mouse decides to struggle and does so to the point that he turns the cream into butter. This allows the mouse to get out of the bucket, but the mouse—like Frank Sr.—leaves behind the prize of the struggle, the butter.             

Frank Jr. uses this ethos and has the mind that there is nothing in life that you cannot be willing to walk away from. He manages to do extraordinary things—like pass the bar exam in Louisiana and get engaged to a girl he loves—but he does not stay anywhere long enough to reap the benefits of a real life.                       

Spielberg has crafted a movie dealing with issues historically important to his films. The movie may look like just another crime caper, but it asks deep questions about family and relationships.  

"What do we take from our family of origin into the larger world? What are we to do with our family's values and beliefs that seem to serve us well, but in the end do not really work?" Frank Jr. has to reckon with the life lessons of a father always reaching for the brass ring and never getting it.             

"Catch Me If You Can" is more than a caper movie. It is a thoughtful film that gives us the opportunity to wonder about who we are in the face of where we have come from.   

Mike Parnell is pastor of Burgaw Baptist Church in Burgaw, N.C.

Visit the movie's official Web site! 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content and brief language 

Director: Steven Spielberg 

Writer: Jeff Nathanson 

Cast: Frank Abagnale Jr.: Leonardo DiCaprio; Carl Hanratty: Tom Hanks; Frank Abagnale Sr.: Christopher Walken; Paula Abagnale: Nathalie Baye; Prostitute: Jennifer Garner; Brenda Strong: Amy Adams; Roger Strong: Martin Sheen.   

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