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'Catch' is not a keeper


Here's the level of ridiculousness at play in Catch That Kid: Jennifer Beals, playing a mom whose kid has just stolen a quarter-million dollars, looks sternly but lovingly at her daughter and says, with all the sincerity she can muster, "You know what you did was wrong."

Now, my mom, your mom, most moms would be a little less concerned that her daughter learn a valuable lesson from her transgression and more worried about keeping little Maddy out of reform school. If only mom had been speaking to the collective filmmaking team responsible for this misfire.

Catch That Kid is a mostly lifeless, weakly plotted and poorly acted attempt at crossing Mission: Impossible with Spy Kids, an attempt to make a caper film the young 'uns can enjoy. They might, but only if they don't think about things too hard. Oh, and it would help if they've never seen a movie before, and thus have little to compare it to.

Kristen Stewart (Jodie Foster's daughter in Panic Room) is Maddy, a rock-climbing tomboy whose mom installs bank security systems and whose dad (Sam Robards), a former rock climber himself, runs a go-cart track. Into this idyllic life ill fortune saunters when dad, succumbing to an old injury, becomes paralyzed. The only cure: a $250,000 operation in Copenhagen.

Of course the family doesn't have that kind of money lying around, but a desperate Maddy comes up with a plan. With the help of her pals, brainy Austin (Corbin Bleu) and handyman Gus (Max Thieriot), she's going to break into the bank vault her mom has been hired to protect and steal the money.

And how does she persuade Austin and Gus to help her? First, she appeals to their affection for her dad, and when that doesn't work, she plays one off against the other, taking advantage of the shared crush they have for her.

There's no sense in coming down really hard on Catch That Kid; it's apparent the filmmakers meant well, and at least it doesn't spend all its time blowing up things real good. But it doesn't make all that much sense, either, and almost everything about the film seems oddly out of proportion. The security system they must overcome, for instance, is the kind of operation bad science-fiction writers devise, all motion sensors and infrared cameras and laser beams and safes suspended in midair. Hasn't this bank ever heard of thick walls and a combination lock?

Director Bart Freundlich seems not to have a clue what's going on, or why he got involved in the first place. When Catch That Kid isn't careening from plot point to plot point, events turning on unseen dimes, it's trying to ingratiate itself with stunts and chases that its young audience have seen done better on Saturday-morning TV.



Catch That Kid

Starring Kristen Stewart, Max Thieriot, Corbin Bleu

Directed by Bart Freundlich

Released by 20th Century Fox

Rated PG (some language, thematic elements, rude humor

Time 92 minutes

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