Catch That Kid Movie Review

There's an important lesson every male should learn, even at a young age: Women always get their way. You listening, fellas? Pack it up, party's over, that's the way of the world. The likable but unambitious Catch That Kid delivers this bubble-bursting curveball to ten-year-old boys everywhere, delivering a preteen heroine that knows the only way to make things happen. Be a playa.

She's a cute tomboy named Maddy (Kristen Stewart, Panic Room), a determined mountain climber-in-training who idolizes her dad (Sam Robards) and helps her overworked mom (Jennifer Beals). She's got two pint-sized buddies: Gus (Max Thieriot), a mini-Mr. Fix-It who loves go-karts and really digs Maddy, and Austin (Corbin Bleu), a crack technology whiz who also really digs Maddy.

When an old climbing injury resurfaces and paralyzes dear ol' Dad, Maddy convinces the boys to help her rob a bank and snag the quarter-million dollars necessary for Dad's operation. But wait, this scheming femme fatale recruits her guys as powerfully as any strong woman in cinema: she separately professes her love to each of them! Tramp! By swearing exclusive allegiance to both boys, this conniving hussy has her crew ready to go.

This is all in good fun, of course, and the steps involved in planning the bank hit feel both lively and wholly unimportant. Director Bart Freundlich (Mr. Julianne Moore, if you wish) is smart enough to keep the pace brisk, the scenes light, and all of the peripheral characters tied together (including Michael DesBarres as a coldhearted bank manager). But Freundlich's overall presentation has a bland generic feel, lacking any sense of high energy or urgency. The kids' efforts feel more like school-project shenanigans than a major heist.

Anyone expecting Spy Kids-lite should forget it. Even though the plot involves cracking computerized, high-quality security systems, there's no real high-tech gadgetry worked into the story. There's a certain purity to the kids' raw talents getting the job done, but there's not enough basic cinematic suspense to get young viewers rooting for each accomplishment. The film's pace actually slows when we get to the heist.

Catch That Kid does have a definite cool factor that will excite youngsters and keep parents chuckling. Gus uses an Xbox controller to rig his go-kart with some Fast and the Furious power. When the trio is dressed to kill and ready to roll, Freundlich shows them walking toward the camera, strutting in confident, slo-mo Tarantino style, hip-hop music pumping.

After all the heist hijinks, however, there's an epilogue that answers the real question in this film: Which diminutive lovesick hero will our blossoming Maddy choose? In a movie with life-threatening injuries, high-pressure go-kart chases and $250,000, this is the where the real bingo is. The story is harmless, cute, and perhaps too simple. The concept is sweet and idealistic. And the boys are suckers. Get used to it, guys.

On DVD, deleted scenes are spiffy, but a commentary track from the three stars proves once again that children have no business recording these things.

Catch that grid.


Catch That Kid Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG, 2004


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