Catch That Kid

(2004) * Pg
91 min. 20th Century Fox. Director: Bart Freundlich. Cast: Kristen Stewart, Max Thieriot, Jennifer Beals, Sam Robards, Corbin Bleu.

Silly adults—heists are for kids! 20th Century Fox's Catch That Kid takes 2002's well-regarded Danish family film Klatretøsen and turns it into Hollywood mulch. Movies like Catch That Kid primarily run through the mill to train kids to become teens who will buy the snot rock on the soundtrack and buy tickets to the graduated versions of the spy-tech heist story. Mission: accomplished.

In "extreme" kid-vid fashion, director Bart Freundlich introduces his trio of child leads with freeze-frames and superimposed "screen names." Maddy (Kristen Stewart of Panic Room) is an aspiring climber, Gus (Max Thieriot) is an aspiring mechanic, and Austin (Corbin Bleu) is an aspiring filmmaker. When Maddy's go-kart track proprietor father (Sam Robards) succumbs to a mystery ailment (medical realism would presumably be too gauche), Gus and Max agree to help her steal $250,000 worth of operation money from a bank which, conveniently, operates a security system devised by Maddy's mother (Jennifer Beals). Meanwhile, James Le Gros proves his career is in the dumpster by playing the head security guard as if vaudeville never died. Naturally, the kids' respective skills pay the bills, but not before one of them intones, "We are so grounded."

Catch That Kid is the kind of undemanding, ethically dubious children's entertainment that is both inconsequential and lacking in consequences. The story is too simply a child's glammed-up wish fulfillment fantasy, capitalizing on the notion that adults ignore children's abilities. Maddy insists no one will suspect them: "Adults treat us like we're five years old anyway. How hard could it be?". Then, the trio inconspicuously slips into the bank on their loudly humming go-karts. Why even bother with rationalizations when the internal logic is so fundamentally faulty?

The movie develops a cutesy love triangle for the three kids, which Maddy exploits for the good of the mission. The plot point is destined to remain unresolved, of course; when the two boys chase Maddy at picture's end (as she squeals, "You'll never catch me!") the movie begins unsettlingly to resemble a Fellini picture in kiddie drag. Most of the film is white noise, but a few ironic comments stuck to my brain: the alarm system's sedated command to Le Gros "Do something. Do something now," and two bon mots from the dastardly bank president (Michael Des Barres): the roared "Here's to the only kind of success that really matters—financial!" and the purred, "I must apologize for this straaange debacle."

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