Thursday, January 17, 2008

'Catch That Kid' Reviews

Please keep in mind that reviews can contain spoilers, lots of spoilers, and that negative reviews can be interesting to read.
If you have more reviews, feel free to email me. :)


•• The Washington Times: On the surface, it’s a remake of a Danish movie, “Klatretosen,” which in turn was inspired by Robert Rodriguez’s “Spy Kids” franchise. What this “Kid” has going for it is a likable young star in Kristen Stewart, who played Jodie Foster’s daughter in “Panic Room.”

[..] All that said, this is Kristen Stewart’s show. If I were about 13, I’m reasonably certain I would’ve found her, and her character, a delight. Maddy’s cohorts sure seemed to, as they fumblingly vie for her affections. She’s flinty, wise and brave — everything that adults should be, but never are, in action flicks for teens.

•• Movie-Gurus, Joe Rickey: Rating 4/5
Remakes have been and likely always will be a common occurrence in Hollywood. Their presence is reinforced by such re-imaginings as The Italian Job, The Ring, and Insomnia, three films that did well at the box office along with arguably improving on the original films. Another positive for Hollywood is that the concept is a proven commodity and less creativity is required because a new idea need not be conceived. That’s not to say that a remake can’t be entertaining, because, especially in the case of the three aforementioned films, a remake can make for rousing fun and excitement. The same could be said about Catch that Kid, a film, that, like The Ring (Japan) and Insomnia (Norway), is a remake of a foreign film, in this case Klatretøsen, from Denmark.

Catch that Kid admittedly does not have the most original storyline (It is basically another heist film, coming one week after another similar film, The Perfect Score) but what it does with a tired idea is worth noting. Chief among the film’s accomplishments is the fact that enough time is given to the planning stages of the film that the tension steadily mounts as one anticipates what is to come. During this period the film develops the personalities of the three central characters so that you actually grow to care about what happens to them as the film progresses. The film utilizes much in the way of humor to make the proceedings seem lighter and more kid friendly. Thankfully, the humor can be appreciated by all ages and doesn’t go the route of grossing the viewer out as a way of garnering laughs.

Once the film becomes all about the heist it keeps the events moving at a fast clip. The heist portion of the film also is thankfully not dumbed down in order to pander to a younger audience. In fact, while there are a few questionable moments that make you wonder why the characters don’t choose an obviously easier solution, the heist pulled off in Catch that Kid is as intricately staged and as exciting as any more “adult” heist film. The best moments during the heist include a pulse-pounding moment involving a character hanging more than fifty feet off the ground as they try and disengage the lock on the suspended safe. There also has to be something said about a tightly edited go-kart versus police car chase that involves a run-in with a semi truck and more. Of course, if the performances weren’t up to par, all would be for naught. Thankfully, they are up to the task.

In the first lead role of her young career Kristen Stewart (Panic Room, Cold Creek Manor) gives an empathetic performance that comes across as very likable. This young actor has the acting chops to go a long way. While the performances as the other members of the group by Corbin Bleu and Max Thieriot are not as good as that of Stewart, they are acceptable nonetheless. As one of the few adult character in the film with any substantial screen time, John Carroll Lynch gives a humorous performance as an employee at the financial center. As Stewart’s parents, Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) and Sam Robards (Life as a House) aren’t given all that much screen time but do the best with what they are given.

Color me surprised. I went into Catch that Kid expecting a generic Spy Kids rip-off and was instead treated to a superbly staged heist film complete with good performances and sharp writing. Catch this kid.

•• SeattlePi, Paula Nechak: A mix of "Spy Kids" and "Mission: Impossible," "Catch That Kid" is based on a 2002 Danish film called "Klatretosen," which became one of that country's most popular and successful movies.

As scripted by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, "Catch That Kid" is faithful to its Scandinavian source of origin yet has just enough universal appeal to cater to American audiences.

The kids, especially Stewart, who played Jodie Foster's daughter in "Panic Room," are all engaging without being cutesy. They play their parts, incredible as they may be, with a straightforward earnestness.

Director Bart Freundlich gives his career a boost by moving into kid-movie territory after a string of rather pasty, male-angst movies ("The Myth of Fingerprints," "World Traveler").

Cast and crew have a blast making a family movie that spoofs its James Bond-like premise, is jam-packed with action, sweaty-palm suspense and adventurous, high-tech fun effects, and yet never loses its at-the-core heart and sympathies.

•• ComingSoon, Glen Bucher: Rating 5/10
The young actors (Kristen Stewart, Corbin Bleu, and Max Thieriot) do a good job showing emotion and interact well with each other. The characters that they play have a little depth to them and come across as real kids. In stark contrast are all of the adults in the movie who are all presented as cardboard cutouts. The mean/evil bank manager, the incompetent and bungling security officers, the all-forgiving mother, and the tragic/heroic father.

The action is all at a kids level, nothing huge and spectacular, but it still adds some suspense. The music is mixed in at reasonable levels so that it does not overpower the movie. There are many humorous points, most of them in the Keystone Cops vein.

Who should see this movie? If you are 13 you will probably think this is one of the best movies ever made. On the other hand, if you are not 13 then you will have to overcome the lack of strong adult characters, the "ends justify the means" moral, and the silly and contrived bank design. The movie is short and moves along at a good pace, so it shouldn't tax the patience of parents escorting younger kids. Overall it is a mediocre movie, but given the subject and target audience that is more than can be expected.

•• SF Gate, C.W. Nevius: "Catch That Kid" is a great example of how far films for kids have come in the last 10 years. Not the plot, certainly, which has holes you could drive one of the movie's go-carts through. Or the action, which is basically "Spy Kids" on a rope.

No, the difference is the hero. She's a girl. And not one of those adorable, cute-as-Hilary-Duff girls, either. As Maddy, Kristen Stewart is a kick-butt, take-no-stuff winner who makes it all happen.

Stewart, who was Jodie Foster's daughter in "Panic Room," is perfect as Maddy. She has that Avril Lavigne "girl power" look down. She is buffed enough to look like she really could climb sheer walls and she even walks like a jock. There are others on the screen, but this is Stewart's movie.

There's nothing terrible about "Catch," except that it promises a lot more than it delivers. Much, for example, is made of Gus' astonishingly smelly socks. Surely, you think, that will be a part of a last-second plot twist, perhaps to disable the menacing attack dogs. Nope. It turns out Gus just has smelly feet. And what started out with the feel of a tight little kids' thriller turns into a Nickelodeon afternoon movie.

•• The Washington Post, Ann Hornaday: Kristen Stewart brings her best game face to "Catch That Kid," a family action-adventure in which the young actress plays a 12-year-old tomboy named Maddy. We meet Maddy while she's climbing up a pipe on a vertiginous-looking industrial tower; she's outfitted with state-of-the-art bungee cords and carabiners. When, midclimb, she receives a video-phone call from her mother, she cuts a convincingly agile figure as a girl-powered high-tech action hero.

Soon, Maddy meets up with her best friends, a computer nerd named Austin (Corbin Bleu) and a gearhead named Gus (Max Thieriot) at a go-kart track run by her father, whose own attempt to ascend Mount Everest has served as both inspiration and cautionary tale. While climbing, he suffered a serious injury, which flares up and leaves him paralyzed, a condition that can be cured only by an expensive operation in Europe. Desperate for money, Maddy enlists her pals to break into the bank where her mother works as a security consultant, steal a quarter of a million dollars and save her father's life.

With its three very appealing young lead actors and less than idealized portrait of childhood, "Catch That Kid" at first glance looks like it might resemble "Holes," one of the most refreshingly sophisticated family pictures released last year. But soon enough the promised energy, humor and action give way to a lethargic and largely laugh-free procedural. "Catch That Kid" boasts a hip cast: Jennifer Beals plays Maddy's overworked mom, former rocker Michael Des Barres is something of a poor man's Terence Stamp in the role of a villainous banker, and James LeGros happily hams it up as a deranged security guard.

But none of these turns results in sparks on-screen, and even Stewart -- whose hooded, wary expression perfectly captures the anxieties and frustrations of even the bravest preteen girl -- can't imbue "Catch That Kid" with the energy it needs to take off. For all its high-tech tomfoolery and high-speed go-kart chases, the movie has the warmed-over feel of the Americanized remake that it is -- in this case of a Danish film called "Klatretosen."

Moreover, the movie isn't only boring; it's troubling: At one point, Maddy uses her feminine wiles to manipulate the emotions of her friends, both of whom have crushes on her; later on, her mother covers for her crime with an elaborate lie. Thus two pretty serious ethical lapses turn out to be not only free of consequences but rewarded. Those parents forced to sit through "Catch That Kid" may want to use the movie's running time to prepare for the discussion about right and wrong that will no doubt ensue once the lights come up.

•• eFilmCritic, Scott Weinberg: Kristen Stewart, previously seen in "Panic Room", does a fine job with a mirthless and grating character, and one expects to see a lot more quality out of her in the future. This film will be a footnote in her career, a reminder of how impossible it is to find good roles for 14-year-old kids. "Catch That Kid" might prove entertaining enough as a rainy-afternoon cable flick (if you're under 16 years old), but it's certainly not worthy of an eight-dollar cineplex investment.

••, Kit Bowen: Catch's saving grace is the kids--Stewart Thieriot and Bleu are instantly likable. As the veteran of the trio Stewart (Panic Room) infuses Maddy with the right amount of empathy and determination while newcomers Thieriot and Bleu deliver charming performances not only as Maddy's friends but as her would-be suitors as well. The little competition between the two for her affection is sweet and unassuming and about the only compelling aspect to the story. As far as the adults in the film most fall into stereotypical roles. Michael Des Barres (Man From Elysian Fields) plays the megalomaniac president of the bank á la It's A Wonderful Life's evil Mr. Potter; Beals is Maddy's workaholic mother who promises to spend more time with her daughter while Sam Robards is the free-spirited dad waiting for his kid to save the day. And let's not forget a sadomasochistic yet bumbling bank security guard (James Le Gros) who "knows NUTHING!" about how to stop some wily kids from breaking into the vault. Borrring.

Catch That Kid is actually a remake of the 2002 Danish film Klatretøsen which is one of the country's more successful films a kid's version of the slick Ocean's Eleven. Doing a remake probably looked good on paper. After all bank heists are still considered the classier of crimes (providing no one gets hurt) stealing all that insurable cash from greedy financial institutions--and seeing kids do it would be fascinating. Unfortunately Catch fails to recognize its own potential. Screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas instead concoct the far-fetched plot so Maddy would have to have a good reason to commit the crime and indie director Bart Freundlich (World Traveler) doesn't even come close to capturing Ocean's Eleven's spirited fun and cleverness. There's no thrill. The kids show no joy in their high-tech and physical capabilities. They just dutifully plod through their mission. Even in trying to emulate the ultra-cool gadget-filled Spy Kids the film ultimately falls short in firing up the audience's imagination.

•• Roger Ebert: Rating 3/4
This is not, to be sure, a movie as good as those two wonderful titles. But it's plenty good, and it has the same buried theme: Anything a guy can do, a girl can do, too. It stars Stewart as Maddy Phillips, an athletic young girl whose father Tom (Sam Robards) once climbed Mount Everest. He had a nasty fall on the way down, which is why he discourages Maddy from climbing, while her mother Molly (Jennifer Beals) forbids it. But as the movie opens, she's scaling the local water tower.

he movie is a remake of a Danish film, unseen by me, named "Klatretosen," which was hailed at the Berlin Film Festival. This version, directed by Bart Freundlich and sporting five writing credits, is well-made, straightforward and entertaining. It doesn't bog down in a lot of cute kid stuff but gets on with telling the story, and has some unexpected touches.

For example, the getaway scene with the kids in go-carts. Yes, and the police chase them, shouting on loudspeakers: "You kids in the go-carts! Pull over! You're leaving the scene of a crime." Sure, because any cop seeing kids on a city street in go-carts is instinctively going to link them to a bank robbery.

Stewart is at the center of the movie, stalwart and sure. You may remember her as Jodie Foster's daughter in a more harrowing thriller, "Panic Room" (2002). Corbin Bleu and Max Thieriot, as her two pals, are just plain likable, and the attraction between Bleu and Stewart may be the screen's first example of interracial puppy-love. For that matter, Jennifer Beals is cast as a possibly mixed race mother, and I would not bother to make this point, except to observe that all of a sudden racial categories are evaporating in mainstream movies, and for the first time in history, actors are being cast because they're right for a role, not because they passed an identity check.

"Catch That Kid" doesn't have the flash of "Spy Kids," but it's solid entertainment -- better than "Agent Cody Banks." Faithful readers know that my definition of a good family film is one the parents can enjoy, and you know what? In the middle of the heist scene, we're just about as involved as if the movie starred George Clooney and Julia Roberts. A heist is a heist, and a good one works no matter what.

••, Louis Hobson: Catch that Kid is an entertaining family film that has as much appeal for girls as boys because it wisely makes heroes of both sexes.

•• Slant, Chris Barsanti: Rating 2/4
Despite the block-headed script and lazy direction (by former indie helmer Bart Freundlich), there's an engaging seriousness to Stewart's performance that briefly helps the film poke its head over the kid-power clichés and Xbox-inspired action, but it doesn't come to much in the end. Too silly to provide any serious drama about Maddy's awful plight and too serious to make it as escapist entertainment, Catch That Kid ultimately comes off as a crass amalgamation of all its influences, The Italian Job with go-karts instead of Mini Coopers.

•• Urban Cinefile, Louise Keller: Excellent performances from the three young central characters, and 13 year old Kristen Stewart (impressive in The Panic Room with Jodie Foster), has a gutsy determination that is most appealing. Although the roles of the parents, played by Jennifer Beals and Sam Robard are not greatly developed, we get a clear sense of their relationship with Maddy, and the film's resolution is nicely handled, and comes as a pleasant surprise.

Bart Freundlich's decision to make all the peripheral characters caricatures works to a point, although some of the scenes when the security guards are goofing around are overdone, and some of the tension surrounding the security is lost. I like John Carroll Lynch's bank manager, who thinks he's Robert DeNiro, and the scene when the kids get him to 'star' in their home movie is inspired.

My favourite plot element is the inclusion of Maddy's baby brother Max. This adorable fair-haired cherubic infant (who wins the prize for best behaved tot), is dragged along to the heist when Maddy can't get out of babysitting him. The threesome (with baby in tow) look so cool, as they arrive for the soiree in black tie (baby too!), and believe it or not, baby Max is there for the whole escapade.

A toe-tapping soundtrack, a thrilling go-cart chase sequence (with police cars and helicopters in pursuit) and the heist itself, which is executed with great panache - there's plenty of tension, humour and a reminder of the importance of friends and family.

•• Boston Phoenix, Tom Meek: In this tweener heist caper, three youths jack a paltry $250,000 from a high-tech bank, even though the impregnable vault that’s suspended a 150 feet in the air holds in excess of $25 million. The why — a father’s medical condition — doesn’t matter in Bart Freundlich’s Saturday-morning diversion. What does matter is the puppy-dog love triangle between Maddy (Kristen Stewart) and her two sidekicks. In order to get Gus (Max Thieriot) and Austin (Corbin Bleu) on board for the job, she’s got to profess her love for each one of them — secretly. The Mission Impossible–lite adventure takes a while to rise, and it doesn’t help that the dialogue (which could have borrowed a few more comic cues from Spy Kids) falls flat. As charismatic as Stewart is (think how good she was in The Panic Room), she rarely overcomes the material. At least there’s a slick getaway in souped-up go-karts, and James Le Gros garners a few laughs as an anal-retentive security guard.

•• ReelFilm, David Nusair: Rating 1,5/4
If you ever thought it was impossible to make a dull heist movie, Catch That Kid is here to prove you wrong. Though the premise is decent - three kids set out to rob a bank to pay for an expensive operation for one of their fathers - the execution is aimed squarely at youngsters, complete with simplistic plotting and over-the-top instances of "comedy." The biggest problem is that everything comes far too easily to the three thieves, thus removing any possibility of tension when the robbery actually occurs. There's a ridiculous sequence in which Maddy (Kristen Stewart), the trio's ringleader, receives a tour around the bank from her mother's boss - who helpfully reveals the password that will unlock every door in the building. It's not enough for Maddy to casually mention that adults treat her like a kid, and that's supposed to justify such an absurd plot twist. The rest of the film is similarly idiotic, although some of the performances are fairly good (ie Stewart deserves much better than this, as do Sam Robards and John Carroll Lynch).