Here's a sweet, little family film for you, all about children robbing banks. It's just what mom and dad and the kids might want to watch on a Sunday afternoon between church and the football game. Of course, as the movie points out, robbery is perfectly all right, even commendable, if the robber's motives are worthy.
Based on the 2002 Danish film, "Klatretøsen," this 2004 American remake, "Catch That Kid," follows in the tradition of children's adventure films like "Spy Kids" and "Agent Cody Banks," but with a "Mission Impossible" twist. Unfortunately, it has none of the charm of "Spy Kids," none of tongue-in-cheek humor of "Banks," for what it was worth, and none of the tension or suspense of "Mission Impossible." So, what does it have? It has young Kristen Stewart, fresh from "Cold Creek Manor" and "Panic Room," as the main character, Maddy Phillips. And that's about it.
But this is no ordinary bank job and these are no ordinary kids. This a Hollywood bank robbery and these are Hollywood kids. The bank vault is suspended high above the floor atop a downtown skyscraper, surrounded by a myriad of steel doors, secret codes, robotic cameras, laser beams, guard dogs, and security personnel. Obviously, a snap for three thirteen-year-olds.
It's easy for them, you see, because they've got "Right" on their side. I mean, when something is right, you've got to do it, and, as we all know, everything that is done for a right cause will turn out all right in the end. It's the Hollywood way.
So, when young Maddy's father, a former mountain climber who got hurt the previous year while ascending Mt. Everest (these filmmakers think BIG) gets a recurrence of his old injury and finds himself paralyzed and in need of an expensive operation that the family can't afford, what else can a girl do than rob a bank to save her dear old dad? Coincidentally, Maddy's mother works as a security consultant at a bank, so Maddy has some inside information about the workings of the place. Coincidentally, too, Maddy is also a mountain climber, and since the bank's vault is suspended from a ceiling and someone needs to clamber up the walls, well, what could be more natural?
Maddy enlists the aid of her two best friends, Gus and Austin, one a marvel at mechanics, the other a marvel at photography (who creates a holographic image of the entire bank building, floor by floor, if you can believe that), and off they go to scale the heights. If any of this sounds preposterous, that's the point, yet the movie can't make up its mind if it wants to be an outright comedy, a tongue-in-cheek parody, or a serious action drama. It tries to be all three and fails at each.
Kristen Stewart is very pretty. Beyond that, she's merely functional. She delivers her lines in a purely perfunctory manner, and she uses her feminine wiles to manipulate the two boys. Since they both like her a lot, she secretly tells each of them (apart from the other) that she loves only him in order to get them both to do her bidding. It's a useful message for all pretty thirteen year olds, and the sooner girls learn this lesson, I'm sure the sooner they'll get ahead in life.
The boys are played by Max Thieriot and Corbin Bleu in bland, nondescript fashion. They, too, are handsome young people, but they could just as easily be Mouseketeers in the old Mickey Mouse Club as actors in a modern movie. Maddy's mother is played by Jennifer Beals, an accomplished actress who should have known better than to try and compete with child stars; in fact, she should have listened to W.C. Fields ("Anyone who hates children and dogs can't be all bad.") Maddy's father is played by Sam Robards in a totally thankless part that has him lying on his back for most of the film.
Then, there are four outright comic stereotypes. English actor Michael Des Barres plays Donald Brisbane, the president of the bank, a man with no heart. He's a cross between Lionel Barrymore in "It's a Wonderful Life" and Terence Stamp in "My Boss's Daughter." It wouldn't surprise me if Stamp had been asked to play the role first and wisely turned it down. Stark Sands plays Gus's creepy, older brother, an intern in the bank's security department. His name in the closing credits is listed as "Brad," but he is clearly referred to as "Chad" throughout the movie; maybe I missed something. John Carroll Lynch plays Mr. Hartmann, the bank manager, a dimwit who aspires to be an actor. (No, Mr. Hartmann, the character in the movie, aspires to be an actor; Mr. Lynch IS an actor, although he's not allowed to do much of the sort here.) And James Le Gros plays Ferrell, the idiot head of bank security. Since these characters are all so exaggerated and ludicrous, it takes away any of the movie's potential for actual thrills. The characters tell us immediately that this is a harmless family picture, that nobody is going to get hurt, and that everything is going to end happily.
I wondered all the time I was watching "Catch That Kid" just who its intended audience was. It seems rather too slow and humorless for preteens. Young people from fourteen to nineteen wouldn't be caught dead going to such a show. And most adults would probably find it too juvenile for their tastes. Which leaves a potential audience of, maybe, twelve and thirteen-year-olds. That's an awfully limited market and may explain why the movie never recouped at the box office the money it took to make it.
Anyway, the three young leads in "Catch That Kid" are sweet and attractive but have virtually nothing to do but go through their paces, like everyone and everything else in the film. Director Bart Freundlich creates no spark, no sign of life anywhere despite an often frenetic, quick-edited tempo. Not even the big heist, which should have been the highlight of the story, is of much interest, it's so dark and depressing; and a final chase sequence has all the look of unnecessary filler. The film concludes with a typically impossible, Hollywood "ahhhh" ending, which is appropriate, I suppose, for a typically impossible Hollywood kids' movie.
For reasons that may only be known to studio executives, the Fox people present the movie in both widescreen and pan-and-scan on flip sides of a two-sided disc. I suspect it's because they're following the lead of Disney in assuming that adults would want to watch the film the way it was originally shown in movie houses, and kids would want to see it mutilated and blown up to fit their TV screens. Little do they understand that kids today are generally more tech savvy than their parents and probably appreciate widescreen movies more than anybody.
Be that as it may, the colors in this 1.85:1 anamorphic ratio widescreen presentation (rendered at about 1.75:1 across a normal television) are deep and strong enough, but they aren't quite as well delineated as they could be, displaying some occasional blurriness. There is some soft, minor grain veiling the image, too, that tends to give the picture a less than perfectly smooth appearance.
The soundtrack is rendered via Dolby Digital 5.1, but it doesn't provide a lot to talk about. The music is the track's major claim to fame, a typical blend of children's pop, rock, and soft rap, with a driving, pounding beat and little individual style. The audio reproduction pumps it out incessantly. There is surprisingly little rear-channel activity for a new action movie, a little musical ambiance reinforcement, of course, and a few, very few, surround effects. So, neither the video nor the audio is of much interest to the home-theater enthusiast, and the movie itself is of little interest to the serious movie buff. Doesn't leave a lot, does it.
To complement a very ordinary movie, the disc includes a very ordinary assortment of extras. There is the usual audio commentary, this one with stars Kristen Stewart, Corbin Bleu, and Max Thieriot, but how many twelve or thirteen-year-olds would want to listen to a complete audio commentary? There are eight deleted scenes, thankfully enhanced for widescreen TVs. And there is the Academy Award nominated animated short subject, "Gone Nutty." Beyond that, there are twenty-four scene selections, English and French spoken languages, and English and Spanish subtitles.
I've heard and read nothing but good things about the Danish film, "Klatretøsen," on which this movie is based; I wish I could get a hold of it for comparison, but I can only imagine it must be better than this Hollywood retread. Anything would be better. Fact is, "Catch That Kid," though not produced by Disney, has all the feel of a Disney Channel TV special. From an adult's point of view, it's flat, limp, and uninspired. I can't say I liked it much.