What better way to begin my Stephen Sommer series than with Stephen Sommer’s first film, Catch Me If You Can (Sommer,1989) a film containing all the cliches of the 1980’s; big hair, bad clothes, illegal drag races and overweight criminals, all that’s missing is a particularly shifty looking children’s tv presenter and WHAM! and we’re set.
The movie follows the antics of high school students and their adventure in saving their school from being closed. Class president Melissa (Loryn Locklin) has started raising money through donations to keep the school open, but when the fundraising begins to slow down, Dylan (Matt Lattanzi) convinces Melissa that he can save the school with his plan. They take $3000 of the money that has already been raised to bet on an illegal car race that Dylan is convinced he would win. Dylan doesn’t win the race and in order to get their money back, he is forced to double-down on an impossible race against the clock that only the town legend has ever accomplished.
I’ll be very honest, I thought I pretty much had my mind made up about this movie in the first 30 minutes. I thought it was boring, predictable and stupid, and while I wasn’t completely wrong, I did change my mind somewhat. Granted, the plot is pretty stupid and there are a lot of really nitpicky problems with it. For example, the school is being closed and only a handful of students are bothered enough by this to do anything, the rest just piss about in class; is it really any wonder the place might be shut down? It’s mentioned at least once that this isn’t the first time the school has been threatened with closure, in fact it’s happened several times before. Sorry but doesn’t that send a very clear message? The school is clearly awful, students lack motivation and dedication, there is no discipline whatsoever and the lack of funding is so bad that as soon as it becomes clear that Melissa might have some cash left over after saving the place, various committees begin scrambling for whatever cut they can get. This place should’ve been shut down years ago!!
Unlike my old high school which is gradually limping its way to mediocrity
Another minor plot issue is where everybody thinks the money is coming from. Melissa tells everybody that she’s raising money through bake sales, raffles and the like but these numbers do not add up, have you ever been to a school event that raised $20,000?? Yes, it’s played for laughs but this surely should raise some suspicion shouldn’t it? As far as acting goes, I can’t complain. Granted there are some extras who barely scrape passable levels of talent but on the whole it’s all fine and the same can be said for the characters themselves, not brilliantly interesting or developed but decent. Hell, the film is even pretty funny at times, I criticised the fact that the money is ostensibly coming in from school activities but that’s still pretty funny, as is the football match in the climax and the fact that they keep calling Melissa’s friend Neville (Grant Heslov, who actually won an academy award for co-producing Argo (2013) isn’t that weird?) navel. In fact, most of the film can be summed up with the words, “Yeah, it’s alright I suppose”.
Story of my life…
However, there are two main issues that I have with the film. The first is the length, at an hour 45 minutes this is a really long film for a pretty mediocre plot. This should’ve been 20-25 minutes shorter, easily. The second point is the music, which varies from being overthetop dramatic and epic to pretentious and ‘faux-deep’. 70% of the time the music doesn’t fit at all, it just gets on your nerves and seems totally out of place. It’s difficult to tell which one of these two problems I hate more. Frankly, they both go a long way towards ruining the film for me. Furthermore, the film hasn’t aged too well. The directing is very 1980’s, lots of slow motion and basic editing and while it doesn’t really detract from the film it does place it firmly in the time and is pretty distracting; not as distracting as the music mid you but distracting nonetheless.
Overall, Catch Me If You Can is a pretty basic popcorn movie. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either. It doesn’t really do anything exceptionally well and it has flaws that can be pretty difficult to overlook. I’m guessing most people would probably like it though but just be aware that the plot isn’t really strong enough to support a film of this length.