Judge Joel Pearce would've gotten away with this review if it weren't for those meddling kids.
"You know what happens if we get caught, right? We go to jail forever.
Like, 'till we're 21."—Gus
Catch That Kid, which is a remake of the Danish film Klatretøsen, is not without problems. That said, the kids ought to enjoy it and they could do a lot worse for family oriented film entertainment, as long as they don't get any ideas about robbing banks themselves. Fox has released the film on a serviceable disc with some solid bonus features.
Facts of the Case
Maddy (Kristen Stewart, Panic Room) is a young climbing fanatic who has a small personal following in Gus (Max Thieriot), a budding mechanic, and Austin (Corbin Bleu, Galaxy Quest), a gadget loving tech nerd. When Maddy's father (Sam Robards, A.I.) is suddenly paralyzed because of an old climbing accident and her mom (Jennifer Beals, Runaway Jury) isn't able to secure a loan for an experimental surgery, Maddy decides to take matters into her own hands.
The three kids decide to rob the bank where Maddy's mother has been working on the most complex (and ridiculously convoluted) security system in bank history. They are drawn to this particular bank by the fact that they have access to the security plans and the fact that it is run by the meanest man in the history of banking, Mr. Brisbane (Michael Des Barres, Mulholland Dr.). Now they just need to get past the system, several dedicated but incompetent security guards, and a pair of attack dogs.
Although it's probably not destined to become a perennial favorite in millions of homes around the world, Catch That Kid is a reasonably fun little family film. It has several things that set it apart from entertainment that is normally found on Saturday morning cable.
The first of these distinctions is a competent script with carefully planned pacing. The film introduces the characters quickly, fully aware that it's a silly and childish plot, and wastes no time in getting into the action. There are few stupid side plots getting in the way. The dialogue isn't always great, but there are a number of funny lines and clever conversations. There are also enough sly jokes about the conventions of heist films to make it clear that this is not just a cheap copy of Ocean's Eleven.
The acting ranges from quite good to quite obnoxious. The three leads are the other thing that sets the film apart, as they all do an admirable job with the fluffy roles they are given. Kristen Stewart deserves the most praise, as she put in a performance easily better than the material. She delivers her lines with a natural sense of timing and pitch, and handles emotional scenes with sincerity. The two boys also put in solid performances, tearing into their roles with the necessary gusto without ever overacting. The supporting roles from Maddy's parents and the bank manager are also impressive. They don't talk down to the audience as happens in so much family entertainment.
The biggest acting problems turn up in the bad guys. Michael Des Barres goes way over the top as the evil Mr. Brisbane, and is obviously trying to emulate Malcolm McDowell or Terrance Stamp. He is not sincere or threatening enough, though, so he comes off more like Jim Carrey's rendition of The Grinch (as the kids mention in their commentary). I can only imagine what Malcolm McDowell could have done with the role, chewing through the scenes in a genuinely threatening manner. The security guards are also pretty weak. There is never a sense that these total idiots could catch the kids, which ruins most of the potential suspense. While the rest of the cast is as sincere as possible in a silly but sincere family film, these three performances come right out of a low budget cartoon series. I suppose the younger set will find them funnier than I did.
Fox has packaged Catch That Kid in a perfectly acceptable DVD. It includes both a widescreen and full screen version. The image on the widescreen side is mediocre, showing a fair number of compression artifacts and edge enhancement. The colors are accurately represented though, and the weaknesses will probably only be visible on a large television. I didn't watch the full screen version. The English 5.1 track is solid. It uses the surrounds mostly for music, but some sound effects kick in back there from time to time. The dialogue is always easily understood, and the obnoxious music is about the right volume.
Although the extras don't warrant a special edition stamp on the front, the disc is far from being bare-bones. The main feature is a commentary with Kristen Stewart, Max Thieriot, and Corbin Bleu. People who are the ages of these stars are likely to get bored listening to the track, and eventually turn it off. People who are older and interested in the filmmaking process will likely get annoyed by it, and eventually turn it off. Either way, it doesn't really deserve an hour and a half of your time. The three stars seem to have fun, but they mostly repeat the lines they like and complain about how they look at various points in the film. Occasionally there are a few anecdotes from the set, but they are few and far between.
More valuable are eight deleted scenes, which build on some of the themes in the film. The inclusion of them would have made for a longer, more emotional film, and the choice to keep the pacing fast was probably a good one. Still, those who enjoyed Catch That Kid should take a glance through these scenes. The only other special feature is the animated short, Gone Nutty: Scrat's Missing Adventure. Calling this a missing adventure seems a little odd considering it's the same short that was featured on the Ice Age DVD. As a side note, it was originally presented in Dolby 5.1, but is only included in Dolby 2.0 here.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I realize that children aren't complete idiots that copy everything they see on television, but I do have issues with some of the content in Catch That Kid. From very early on, it's clear that the three of them are justified in robbing the bank since they are doing it for a good cause. When these actions are validated at the end, it definitely suggests that the ends justify the means in pretty much any situation. While I'm not necessarily saying that the three should rot in jail for the rest of their lives, none of them learned the important lesson that sometimes things happen that are outside of our control. At the end of the film, this aspect of the film is wrapped together better than I had expected. Still, antiheroes this young are somewhat problematic.
The other issue I have is more severe. When Gus is trying to appropriate the bank floor plan model from a local architect, he lies to the secretary, claiming that he has been physically abused at home in order to get what he wants. The scene is played for laughs. I don't think that joking about child abuse is wise in any film, but it is especially dangerous in a film targeting this age group. Children need to know that abuse isn't something that should be lied about, and it is definitely not a topic to be taken lightly.
Despite a few weak performances and a couple conceptual issues, Catch That Kid is a movie that kids will probably love and adults will merely sit through. It's not the best family film ever made, but it isn't trying to be. A rental should be enough for all but its most ardent fans, who will find the disc to have enough quality to make it worth purchasing.
I could accuse Catch That Kid of being guilty, but everyone involved accomplished exactly what they set out to do and more. Because of that, I am going to let them all off, so you should lock your doors at night.
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