By Kevin Carr | February 8, 2004

“Catch That Kid” is a remake of a 2002 Danish film about a heist pulled off by kids. In some ways, it tries to compete with the big action flicks for the American youth audience like Spy Kids and “Agent Cody Banks,” and might have been better off just staying down-to-earth and real.
Maddy (Kristen Stewart) is a teenage girl who desperately wants to follow in her father’s footsteps as a great climber. Her father (Sam Robards), however, has given up climbing after a near-fatal accident years before on Mount Everest. Now, he runs a local go-cart track while his wife (Jennifer Beals) works as a security consultant for a major bank in L.A.
One day, Maddy’s father collapses, and it is discovered that dormant spinal damage from his fall from the mountain has surfaced. He’ll die unless he can get experimental surgery that costs $250,000. Desperate to save her father, Maddy convinces her best friends Austin (Corbin Bleu) and Gus (Max Thieriot) to help her break into her mother’s bank and overcome the security system that her mother designed.
I’ve never been one to blame movies for the evils of the world, or to berate them for not providing a good example for kids. For example, when high school and college kids were getting run over because they were lying along the double yellow line of a freeway – as they saw in the film “The Program” – I looked at this as evolution in the works. I never thought the studio should have dropped that footage from the release.
Additionally, when a handful of yahoos take a video camera on some dangerous home stunt trying to emulate Jackass, I can’t say I feel too much sympathy for them when they’re maimed beyond belief. Call me harsh, but I just don’t think that films should be held up as the parents of our society.
However, when a movie is released that is clearly targeted for a younger audience like “Catch That Kid” is, I do have to shudder a bit at some of the dangerous behavior the heroes do. It’s one thing when Indiana Jones or James Bond puts himself in peril. After all, these characters are adults. In “Catch That Kid,” the kids themselves perform these daring feats and are actually praised for their capability. I don’t know how many kids are going to try to drive go-carts down busy city streets or try to free-climb a 100-foot wall or go up against Rottweiler attack dogs, but I do feel there could have been more retribution in the script for doing these things.
Again, I’m only holding this movie to a higher standard because it is made for kids and tries to give a strong message. And that message actually turns out to be a bit irresponsible. It basically says that it’s okay to put yourself, your friends and your infant brother in mortal danger (not to mention steal a quarter of a million dollars) if your purpose is noble.
Another problem I had – not just from an impressionable level, but as a basic plot device as well – is the fact that Maddy uses her teeny-bopper feminine wiles to manipulate her cohorts (and best friends) Austin and Gus to help her in the caper. I’ve blasted movies in the past for trampling the emotions of male characters (for example, “Win a Date With Tad Hamilton”), and I don’t exempt “Catch That Kid” from the mix. Again, Maddy is justified in her decision to make both Austin and Gus believe she is in love with each one and not the other because she is trying to save her father’s life.
In some ways, “Catch That Kid” is trying to ride the “Agent Cody Banks” and “Spy Kids” popularity wave, but it misses the mark a bit. In some senses, it tries to be overly high-tech where it doesn’t need to be. For example, Austin has 3-D holographic models built into his home computer that just seem over the top for nerd in junior high. In “Agent Cody Banks,” this kind of gadgetry was easy to swallow because the film was basically a 14-year-old James Bond. But “Catch That Kid” is a more down-to-earth plot without the evil madman trying to take over the world – and the high-tech angle just doesn’t work as well here.
One of the better comic relief moments is when Gus’s brother is being trained as a security guard by James LeGros. LeGros uses an ultra-serious approach to a slapstick nutball role, and it works like a charm. Sure, it’s total hack, but it’s funny as well.
There are some decent moments of suspense and concern, especially as you watch Maddy scale the 100-foot wall to the safe. It’s not a great film, and it does rely a bit too much on the “evil bank” motif, but it might be worth a Saturday afternoon with the kids – as long as you can be sure they’re not going to take their Big Wheels on the freeway after seeing it.
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