Catch Me If You Can:Widescreen Edition

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Nathalie Baye, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 (anamorphic widescreen). Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French), Dolby Digital 2.0, DTS. Two discs. 141 minutes. 2002. DreamWorks 39570. PG-13. $29.99.

One of Steven Spielberg's breezier films, Catch Me If You Can is an endlessly magnetic production based on the life of Frank Abagnale Jr., the brilliant con artist turned FBI agent. Abagnale's story is one of excitement punctuated by loneliness. Frank Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a happy teenager with two loving parents. He and his father, Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken), dote on Jr.'s mother, Paula (Nathalie Baye), who begins to show her unhappiness in the form of mysterious male houseguests after Frank Sr. gets into tax trouble and has to sell their home. When Frank Jr. is forced to choose with whom to live after the divorce, he flees. To support himself, he begins a life of fraud as a "paperhanger," or check counterfeiter, and poses as an airline pilot. He catches the attention of FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), who initiates a mutually respectful game of cat-and-mouse with Abagnale.

DiCaprio is effortlessly watchable as Frank Jr., his charisma practically jumping off the screen. Walken, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, is perfectly cast as his father, showing love for Frank Jr. even as he encourages his son's problem. At one point, Frank Jr. begs his father to ask him to "quit." To which he replies, "You can't." So Frank Jr. just keeps on running.

The film transfer looks absolutely brilliant, especially in the middle of the film. The ward-robe and sets in the beginning start out muted and monochromatic and evolve into wilder colors as Abagnale improves at his game. Yellows, oranges, and pinks pop off the screen, then gradually fade as Abagnale's whirlwind life becomes more subdued. I saw no artifacts or edge enhancement on my set. The opening credits, featuring colorful and innovative stylized animation and John William's Oscar-nominated original score, are a pleasure to behold, and kept my finger from hitting Skip, as is usually the case with credits.

I did my viewing with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track (DTS and DD 2.0 are also available), which was excellent: the surrounds are put to fair use, dialogue emerges crystal-clear from the center channel, and Williams' delightful, progressive-jazz score highlights the film's more intense moments.

The second of the set's two discs contains extras enough to delight the most insatiable viewer. A featurette chronicles the 56-day shoot, including a scene in which Spielberg toasts DiCaprio into the "crew family." Frank Abagnale: Between Reality and Fiction tells the story of the real Frank Abagnale, Jr. But what I found most interesting was the featurette on the scoring of the film, which shows the dynamic between Williams and Spielberg on this, their 20th filmmaking collaboration. The usual theatrical trailer, photo gallery, filmographies, production notes, and so forth are not forgotten, and round out a great film and a wonderful DVD.—KR