Eric D. Snider

Catch That Kid

I hesitate to call the main character in "Catch That Kid" pure evil, but she's definitely amoral, and possibly psychopathic. In every situation, she sees the ends as justifying the means, regardless of how much lying or stealing those means require. And the movie just enables her, as she is never called upon to account for her questionable behavior.

So by all means, take your children to see one of their contemporaries -- the 13-year-old Maddy Phillips (Kristen Stewart) -- attempt a bank heist and lie to her friends, all without negative consequences. This course of events is usually reserved for dark comedies (see "Bad Santa," for example), but this is neither dark nor, particularly, a comedy. It's a children's-empowerment movie, a remake of a Danish film that I guess was a big deal over there a couple years ago, to the extent that a Danish film can be a big deal.

Maddy is a would-be rock-climber whose mother Molly (Jennifer Beals) has designed the security system at a new high-tech bank and whose father Tom (Sam Robards) owns a go-cart track. Her guy friends Austin (Corbin Bleu), an amateur filmmaker, and Gus (Max Thieriot), an amateur mechanic, both have crushes on her, though the threesome remains innocent and platonic like the 13-year-olds they are.

Then Sam gets sick and requires a $250,000 operation that their insurance won't cover. Unable to get the money any other way, Maddy convinces Gus and Austin to help her rob the bank her mom's new bank, "Ocean's Eleven"-style. How does she get them to do it? She tells each boy, separately, that she is in love with him.

I would love all of this if it were about a devious, cold-hearted woman, not a naive 13-year-old girl. But it's unsettling, to say the least, to see a child perpetrate one crime after another without suffering any consequences. It's one thing to give young audiences a thrill by showing kids in cool grown-up situations, as in "Spy Kids," where they get all the neat gadgets and jetpacks and stuff; that sort of fantasy is perfectly fine for kids to indulge in. It's something else to show them committing felonies. Not that I think this movie will inspire young people to rob banks; more that it might reinforce an idea many young people already have, which is that they can do whatever they want without any repercussions. I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, most of the comedy is of the irritating variety, notably involving Gus' older brother Chad (Stark Sands) and his co-worker Ferrell (James Le Gros), who have jobs monitoring the security cameras in the bank and are thus in for some torment as the trio of hoodlums thwarts them at every turn.

Apart from a few serious leaps in logic -- as when Maddy must unexpectedly babysit her little brother, yet somehow has a junior-size tuxedo to help him infiltrate a fancy party, too -- the story moves along swiftly and painlessly, and is not needlessly cute or stupid. It is written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, who also wrote "2 Fast 2 Furious," which explains the high-speed go-cart chase in this film.

Grade: C

Rated PG, mild vulgar language

1 hr., 32 min.

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