Catch That Kid (2004)

21 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Catch That Kid” is a heist movie featuring twelve-year-olds robbing a bank. And to get right off the bat, this is not a great movie, by any means. It has its dumb moments, the techno George Clinton music is overdone, most of the comedy is beyond over-the-top, and some scenes go beyond sensible reasoning. But the energetic spirit, the respectable elements of the heist genre, and a spunky leading performance from Kristen Stewart turn out to be enough for me to enjoy it. So I’m giving it a marginal recommendation. It may be too much for you to handle; I got a kick out of it.

Just because George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and the rest of the “Ocean’s Eleven” cast can pull off a heist doesn’t mean three pre-teenagers can’t do it any better. And it’s a clever and complicated one too. They have to thwart a new, high-tech security system in order to break into a bank vault and steal thousands of dollars.

It’s for a good cause, to be sure. It’s to pay for a ridiculously expensive operation that will heal the ill father of Maddy (Kristen Stewart). Maddy is a plucky girl who loves to climb the water tower. Her mother (Jennifer Beals) forbids it, but she got it from her father (Sam Robards), who once climbed Mount Everest and had a nasty fall. Nevertheless, Maddy isn’t discouraged and when we first see her in the movie, she’s scaling the town’s water tower. But her father’s injury causes a certain paralysis that causes a certain life-threatening disease (at least, I assume that’s what it is). There’s an institution that has experimented with this disease, but their insurance won’t cover the expense.

Now, in reality, I’m sure there’d be a heavy charity event for this apparently rare disease. But no—Maddy’s mother, who has installed the new bank security system, has to ask for a loan from the bank president Brisbane (Michael Des Barnes, teeth-gnashingly over-the-top) who of course turns her down. So, Maddy decides that she will break into the bank and steal the right amount of money to pay for the operation. Well OK, that’s a good cause. But how exactly does she plan to use the money without anyone, especially her mother, wondering where it came from? I’m not sure you’re supposed to ask questions like that in a movie like this, anyway. So forget it.

Maddy rallies her two best friends—Austin (Corbin Bleu) and Gus (Max Thieriot)—to help her with this mission. Austin is a computer nerd, Gus is a mechanic at the local go-cart track, and both are rivals for Maddy’s affections. In fact, Maddy actually has to lie to each of them, saying she has feelings for them in order to get them to help her.

Maddy has her mother show her around the bank so that she and her co-worker Hartmann (John Carroll Lynch) can give away some details that will ironically become great use to her in a heist. There are things to watch out for—high-powered motion sensors, vicious security Rottweilers, and a nasty chief security guard with a stun gun. What are the kids’ getaway vehicles? Faster, more silent go-carts enhanced by Gus’ mechanical skills. How do they keep surveillance? Hacking into the bank’s computer via Austin’s computer skills. And can Maddy really scale the bank vault suspended 100 feet in the air?

As you can tell, this is not an easy mission. It’s a hard, complicated heist and these kids have the skills to succeed. Well-executed by director Bart Freundlich, the heist that takes up most of the second half of “Catch That Kid” is quite entertaining. It respects the heist movie genre and gives some pleasant surprises as well.

There are some stupid moments in the movie, though. For example, how in the world is Austin able to create a digital hologram of the building the kids are going to break into? I don’t care how smart he is; he’d have to be the head of Apple in order to create that. And a lot of the physical comedy—crotch shots and flatulence—belong to that weirdo chief security guard played by James Legros who really lets it all out with this performance, but really overdoes it big time. Also, when the kids leave the bank on their go-carts, the police come after them immediately. What would make them sure that kids with go-carts automatically makes them believe they robbed a bank? And there’s a central element that occurs during the heist that really bugged me when it should have been exciting—it features Maddy holding on for dear life up near the vault; I didn’t believe for a second that she was really hanging in the air.

I’m willing to forgive the movie for all of that, mainly because of the film’s energy and the performances from the actors. Kristen Stewart is a real star ability—she’s plucky, fun, and instantly likable. She’s at the center of the movie, and she owns it. Max Thieriot and Corbin Bleu are fresh and appealing as her two friends, and their adolescent rivalry for Maddy’s affections are handled and performed realistically.

I also like that “Catch That Kid” is attempting to create something realistic from this “spy-kid” material. As a result, it’s never boring and a good deal of fun. You may disagree, seeing as how it may be seen as a dopey kid-adventure (which I don’t see it as). But I’m not here to agree with you. I’m merely here to state my review.

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