Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Catch Me If You Can

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

Reviewed by: Halyna Barannik

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Biography Crime Drama
2 hr. 21 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
December 25, 2002 (wide—3,156 theaters)
Copyright, DreamWorks Distribution click photos to ENLARGE
Relevant Issues
Leonardo DiCaprio in “Catch Me If You Can”


1. The moral structure of the home will be the foundation upon which a child lives his or her life. Consider the moral messages many children receive from their parents today. What will the future society look like based on today’s parents?

2. If Frank Jr. was attempting to provide the resources for his parent to reunite and recreate his home, would you excuse his behavior or still hold him accountable? Why?

3. The nature of fraud is to tell a person what they want to hear. How did Frank Jr. do that to the people in his life and why is this a damaging behavior? Have you ever defrauded a person for some personal gain? What happened to the relationship?

4. In what way was Hanratty as disturbed a person as Frank Jr.? What does both a life of crime and a life of crime-fighting do to the soul of a person?

—Denny and Hal,

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Garner, Martin Sheen, Christopher Walken | Directed by: Steven Spielberg | Produced by: Steven Spielberg, Walter F. Parkes | Written by: Jeff Nathanson | Distributor: Dreamworks

I go to movies to be entertained. I went to see “Catch Me If You Can” because it received high review ratings, and, based on a true story, promised a content that would surely be interesting. It was indeed an intriguing film, and the two plus hours slipped by quickly. That the story is well-told cannot be denied. There is a good screenplay that clips along at a good pace, good acting, good editing that presents the rapid action clearly. But what does it all mean spiritually?

Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the son of Frank Abagnale, Sr. (Christopher Walken), and the apple does not fall far from the tree. The father is in trouble with the IRS and doesn’t express any remorse for his wrongdoing. In fact, he wants to sue the government for harassing him. Somehow Frank Junior catches this felony bug and engages, at the unbelievably young age of 16, in a life of shocking, colorful, flagrant fraud. The psychological stimulus seems to be his extreme despair at the divorce of his parents, and not just a desire to have money and climb out of the poverty that his father’s problems have created.

No only does Frank Jr. forge checks, but he embarks on a series of professions for which he has not a speck of education or training. He gets through this con life by sheer gall and creative intelligence. And he does all this successfully, at least for awhile. There is a delay between the execution of his crimes (impersonating an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer) and government authorities catching onto these crimes. In hot pursuit of him, once his spree of bank forgeries and other fraud is discovered, is FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks).

The movie takes us through hoops, as Frank performs his tricks and Carl tries to find him. He is, of course, eventually caught. The film is based on the story as told by the real Frank Abagnale. But does he have any remorse for the harm his fraud has caused? This issue is not at all clear in the movie. The film is entertaining, sometimes sad, but ultimately leaves a big moral question mark. The unquestioned answers are underlined by the fact, as stated at the end of the film, that Frank has been living a normal life for decades, with a wife and children, and is paid millions of dollars by institutions for helping them solve other bank fraud cases.

The morally unclear ending left me somewhat dissatisfied. The real Frank is now touring the country telling stories of his criminal escapades, and receiving celebrity status, thanks to this movie. The issue of justice is somehow hanging in mid-air for me. My Christian perspective on the moral of the story is frustrated and unresolved. Could this be an instance of God’s overriding mercy that restores Frank’s life to him and the movie simply failed to present all the necessary spiritual ingredients for one to draw this conclusion? I really don’t know. However, as entertainment, the movie succeeds grandly.

Editor’s Note: For an interesting read (and to contrast the exaggerations brought forth in this film), please see Frank Abagnale’s personal site at

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—I have to say, right now, I am sort of on a “Gangs of New York” high, so perhaps I would’ve enjoyed this movie more had I seen it first. But, as it stands, I thought the movie started to wear a little thin. I hate saying that, because I was always interested in the movie, but I found myself waiting for something else to happen.

All three celebrities involved with this picture have done better work earlier this year. Hanks had “Road to Perdition,” Spielberg had “Minority Report” and Dicaprio has “Gangs of New York.” I’m not trying to say that this was a bad movie, it just wasn’t up to the standard I was holding for it. Both Hanks and DiCaprio were fantastic, and they shared the movie’s best scenes together. I can say that whenever they were together, I never got bored. Their scenes together were just great. more »
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3½]
—Jason Eaken, age 19
Positive—My husband I thought that “Catch Me If You Can” was a wonderful movie. Tom Hanks performance was at its usual best! I do believe that divorce affects children in different was and for Frank, who by the way got scheming honest, right from papa Frank, did and reacted as only he knew how. If you pay close attention you’ll note that at one point he wanted it all to just stop and go away, he was tired.

He also, on several occasions, wanted to “restore” unto his father everything that he had lost… but only God can do that. We as Christians have to see God in everything, be it good or bad. I saw God moving all in this picture. Just because Frank never acknowledged the Lord God or maybe didn’t even know who He was doesn’t mean God didn’t know him! And though he may still today think he was “lucky”, “smart” or “slick” the truth in the matter is that he was blessed.

After all God is the God of ANOTHER chance!
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—LeShaun, age 33
Positive—I agreed to see this movie after I visited this site for comments from other viewers. None of the other comments even suggested taking the Lord’s name in vain, which was done on at least three occasions during the movie. I do know, however, that the world is not perfect, and given the nature of the plot shouldn’t have expected there wouldn’t be any profanity.

I still consider it a good movie, personally considering Tom Hanks is a brilliant actor. It was overall, positive.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Nancy B., age 44
Positive—Not as good as I anticipated, but I went in with very high expectations. “Catch Me If You Can” does not glorify crime. The consequences are clear. There are sexually suggestive scenes however. Good acting and suspenseful plot: worth the money overall. Hard to believe Frank Abignale pulled all of this off while still a teenager! A fun movie which in spite of its length does not seem to capture Frank’s exploits well enough. He passes as an airline pilot for example, but we only get to see him in the cockpit once. It would have been entertaining to see more of his genius at work. A good movie that left me wanting to read the book.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Todd Adams, age 35
Positive—I really enjoyed this film!! It was an exciting and enthralling film that kept me glued to my seat and I was sorry to see it end. Other than one sexual scene, I did not see a lot of offensive language or scenes. Going into this movie, I felt that they were going to glorify the life of a thief, but they didn’t. They showed him as a lonely and troubled man who tries to give up the game several times. The acting is fabulous and both Christians and non-Christians should enjoy this movie.
My Ratings: [5]
—Alexandra, age 21
Positive—This movie was very VERY good. I loved it. DeCaprio did a wonderful acting job and played a cute character. I really enjoyed this movie and plan to see it again. It is appropriate for all teens I think. It had great acting and a powerful storyline. not to mention great effects. It’s definitely a must see and plan to buy it when it comes out.
My Ratings: [5]
—Sarah Linnen, age 32
Positive—I thoroughly enjoyed this movie! It wasn’t exactly action packed or comedy filled but if you’re looking for a fascinating drama, this is the movie to see. This movies depicts a young man who chooses early on what path in life he’s going to take. Unfortunately, for him (but good for the movie producers) the path he chooses turns into a run for his money… literally. Tom Hanks and Leonardo DeCaprio were quite superb in their acting. Nothing terribly objectionable, give one or two brief bed scenes, they barely last 2 minutes. I would recommend this movie to all teens and adults, but for the kids, be careful of the PG-13 rating.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Tara Smith
Positive—Wow… This is one of the best films I have seen in a long time. In addition to the top-notch acting, it is an inspiring story of REDEMPTION. God can even use sin in someone’s life to make them fit to work for Him in the future. But in between the sin and the redemption, justice is served as an excellent demonstration that your sin will always find you out.

It is rich entertainment, but I was very happy to find that it was much, much more! The historical value makes it even more praiseworthy.

There was some language and innuendo. The innuendo is not specifically condoned, as it’s the villain who does it. However, since the woman, who was not a villain, yielded to the villain’s seduction and that was not condemned, I think I’ll just have to give the film a morality rating of “Average.” But that rating is for the film’s overall content, all things taken into consideration. In the end, that detail is unessential to the plot, as is the little amount of language.

Again, this is one of the most inspiring films I’ve ever seen. In my opinion, because of the historical value, it gets close to the borderline of must-see.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Gabriel Mohler, age 25 (USA)
Neutral—It was a great film which teaches us the consequences of one’s actions, primarily dishonesty (because Frank Abagnale Jr. lies, cheats, and steals throughout this film). There is some sex and cussing in the film which warrants my neutral rating so take the 13-and-older crowd to see the movie.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Shannon Hammell, age 21
Neutral—I found this film to somewhat disappointing at first, but overall it turned out to be pretty entertaining. Wasn’t comfortable with Tom’s “knock-knock” joke, but it was such a shock that I found myself laughing in spite of myself. The film did manage to show how Carl (Tom) showed grace and mercy to Frank (Leo) by visiting him in prison and eventually getting him a job with the FBI. Doesn’t God bestow His grace and mercy upon us daily, providing for us even when we don’t deserve it?
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
Neutral—I would have rated this positive because I found it a fast time passer. The story pictured to me the sheer depravity of man. Could I have done what Frank did, yes, without Christ we all could. Does God show undeserved grace in our lives. Yes!!! Does divorce devastate children, I think much of what Frank did was in reaction to his parents break up. This movie made me think, amazing how sin multiplies and hurts! I could not rate it positive because the sin bothered me so for someone his age (this made it even worse) but it is a fast paced movie, very interesting!
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 5]
—Bev, age 47
Neutral—“Catch Me If You Can” was reviewed as a lighthearted caper film, supposedly “inspired by a true life story.” I didn’t see much to be lighthearted about. True to Hollywood form, religious people are portrayed as shallow hypocrites who only care about the family respectability being smudged by the wayward nitwit daughter. Such an unfortunate soul is to be secretly shuttled off to the abortion mill while the parents dutifully remain in church and listen to the preacher thunder against fornication and abortion. In this regard, scriptwriters push the abortion hot button as a means of smearing Christianity. Amazingly, Martin Sheen’s character can smell a wolf pretending to be a Christian a mile away by analysis of his table grace, skillfully force him to confess to being a complete fraud and then turn around and offer him a job in his law firm and assist in passing the bar if he will only marry his nitwit daughter. The FBI is a career-bound bureaucracy of unimaginative deadheads, Inspector Clouseaus running around with snub nose 38’s in hand, when they manage to get them out of their holsters.

Tom Hank’s Handratty stumbles over potato chips in the carpet and doesn’t know a suspect when he confronts him. This film gets good laughs at the expense of the truth and real life reputations. Contrary to what some reviewers thought, this film clearly attempted to develop a serious plot undercurrent for DiCaprio’s character that was based on his parents’ life tragedies related to income tax evasion, adultery, divorce and remarriage.

But it’s a big stretch to think that the failure of your parents’ marriage turns you into a check forger and fabulous impostor. Moving past these disappointments, the larger failure of this film is in lack of development of how it was that Frank Abagnale was so gifted and brilliant that he could learn enough to pass the bar in 2 weeks, fly commercial jets and pass himself off successfully as a Harvard educated pediatrician. These things make the real life person quite fascinating.

Frankly, I thought that Leonardo DiCaprio just played himself as usual, as most ordinary actors do. And there’s nothing particularly brilliant about him. The only really great acting job in this movie is Christopher Walken’s role as Frank Sr.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Alan Roberts, age 53
Negative—I just tried to watch this movie with my teenage Christian children. I have seen this movie many years ago, but did not realize how offensive the sex scene and the language in some places of the movie are. The other reviews does not state how offensive this movie is in some places.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jenny, age 44 (USA)
Comments from young people
Negative—This movie portrays crime in a fun light and sex in the same way. Could been a great movie. Too much mess. Hollywood ruins it again. Don’t waste your time.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4]
—Josh Burns, age 16
Positive—I really enjoyed this movie! For once, Steven Spielberg has made a film without any real weight: this movie was just plain funny. both Hank’s and DiCaprio’s characters are likeable and easy to relate to. Although the main plotline greatly revolves around deceit and lies, DiCaprio well displays the loneliness and regret of his decisions when he wishes to move on and start fresh. the only parts which disturbed me were the bedroom scenes, which, although they had little nudity, were disgusting because DiCaprio’s character is sixteen—my age.

Aside from that, this movie has a lot to offer if you are in the mood for a laugh out loud comedy. I would recommend this film for viewers in high school or older.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Joe, age 16
Positive—Catch Me If You Can is a very exciting film, I enjoyed it very much except that 3 scenes weren’t crucial to the movie. Tom Hanks does a wonderful job as portraying a FBI investigator tracking down a pro con man (deCaprio) who is running from family problems at home.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Claire, age 15
Positive—Stephen Spielberg has done himself well, I liked this film exceedingly, one thing that I admired is that it doesn’t praise crime, and the people that run from authorities, instead, it takes on a better role, in where the Con Man is running, and manages to trick the FBI agent many times, but in the end, is ultimately caught, and ends up becoming friends with the FBI agent, and even ends up working with the FBI. On a christian basis, I do have a little trouble rating the film, the sexual content is rather extreme for the first hour of the film, and there is some surprisingly harsh, but surprisingly brief language. Other that that, the movie was a wonderful, fun, playful classic cat and mouse thriller. I found this movie to be funny also. Although I still recommend 13 years and older, this is a surprisingly good film.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Anthony E. Aguilar III, age 14
Positive—Wow, what a good movie!-And I don’t say that often! I was amazed at the ability of the acting. It was quite astonishing how 30 some year old Leo Dicaprio could manage to pull of being a 16 year old boy and actually seem like one. Let me caution you though, some of the material in this movie is objectionable (the f-word, scene of sex-no nudity, showing of a couple in bed, talk about a mother cheating on her husband, STEALING MONEY!) But overall I found Catch Me If You Can to be qutie a rewarding movie. I recommend it to mature teens to adults. I guess you could wait ’til it comes out on video, that’s what I was going to do but I couldn’t wait, and I wasn’t disappointed.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Rachel Williams, age 13
Comments from non-viewers

I haven’t seen the film, but I’ve read the book, and heard a speech. The book shows that Frank began stealing to support his sex habit. What neither the book nor the film tell, is that he repaid all whom he stole from. “Today, no one is out a penney.” Get the audio of the speech at Focus on the Family. He does not at any time express any religious faith.
—Kristen, age 28