[Screen It]


(2004) (Kristen Stewart, Corbin Bleu) (PG)

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Action/Adventure: A girl convinces her two friends to help her break into a high tech bank vault to steal money needed for her father's experimental surgery.
Maddy (KRISTEN STEWART) is a normal kid who lives with her parents, Molly (JENNIFER BEALS) and Tom (SAM ROBARDS), and toddler brother, Max. Like her father who previously ascended Mount Everest, Maddy yearns to be a climber, much to her mother's dismay. She also likes hanging out at her family's go-cart racetrack with friends Austin (CORBIN BLEU) and Gus (MAX THIERIOT) who both have a crush on her.

Her world is turned upside down, however, when her father suddenly collapses and finds himself paralyzed from a prior climbing accident. With the only chance for recovery being experimental surgery in Denmark, Molly hopes to borrow the needed $250,000 from banker Mr. Brisbane (MICHAEL DES BARRES), a client for whom her firm is installing a high tech security system for his innovative bank vault.

Yet, when he and others turn Molly down, Maddy decides to take matters into her own hands. Knowing she can climb to the vault that's suspended one hundred feet off the ground, she persuades Austin and Gus to use their individual talents to assist her in stealing the needed money.

After Maddy uses the bank's friendly manager, Mr. Hartmann (JOHN CARROLL LYNCH), as an unwitting accomplice, the three draw out the rest of their plans and set out to infiltrate the bank. As they do, however, they know they must overcome the high tech surveillance and alarm features and outwit security guard Ferrell (JAMES Le GROS) and Gus' mean older brother Brad (STARK SANDS) who's interning there.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
You always hear about the best laid plans of mice and men and how they often go awry, but what about kids and their scheming notions. They may have good ideas, but don't always think them through, due to lack of real world experience. Such is the case with such characters in "Catch That Kid," an American remake of the Danish film, "KlatretÝsen."

In it, a girl persuades her friends to help her rob $250,000 from a high tech bank vault so that her ailing father can get the experimental overseas surgery he needs to return to normal. The three kids - in true "Spy Kids" mode - use their various individual skills to outwit the adults and overcome the various physical, emotional and technological obstacles that come their way.

Yet, they obviously don't think things all of the way through, as their various endeavors leave obvious trails back to them and/or adults who unwittingly assisted their planning and execution of the heist. To be fair, they're kids who obviously aren't wise enough to see such problems and/or repercussions to their actions. And the film's target audience of similarly aged viewers likely won't notice or care about such matters.

That said, it doesn't help that they're burdened and unnecessarily grounded by screenwriters Michael Brandt & Derek Haas' ("2 Fast 2 Furious") surprisingly lame script. I have no idea if the same applied to the original film, but director Bart Freundlich ("The Myth of Fingerprints," "World Traveler") simply can't do much with the material.

Then there's the somewhat icky manipulative development on the part of the script - having the father suddenly paralyzed and needing surgery -- as the catalyst for action. Since it uses that as a plot device rather than fully addressing such serious matters, it feels a bit too weird for a film like this that's aimed at the "tween" target audience. And despite the otherwise good intentions, the kids' action is still breaking and entering and endangers the mom's job.

A few script changes could have alleviated the problem. Since the bank manager -- Michael Des Barres ("The Man From Elysian Fields," "Mulholland Drive") and head security guard -- James Le Gros ("Lovely & Amazing," "The Myth of Fingerprints") --are played as villains and buffoons respectively, the overall heist probably would have been more acceptable and entertaining if the reason for getting the money was bit more over the top and/or ludicrous.

In fact, having the bank manager behave as more of a villain - such as him somehow obtaining the family's money through outright theft or some business loophole - would have made the kids' exploits and goals more fun and/or justifiable.

Kristen Stewart, who was quite good in "Panic Room," is okay here, but the weak script prevents us from really caring about her or her quest. Corbin Bleu ("Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star," "Galaxy Quest") and Max Thieriot (making his feature debut) befall similar fates in their roles as her best friends and accomplices.

Jennifer Beals ("Roger Dodger," "Flashdance") and Sam Robards ("Life as a House," "American Beauty") play the only adults who seem halfway normal, while the rest of the "mature" characters are generally idiots or buffoons but without the accompanying funny business.

I know, it's somewhat foolish picking apart a kids' film that's designed as escapist entertainment for them. Yet, its various flaws prevent it from being as good on that level as the early "Spy Kids" flicks or as intelligent, creative and entertaining as many of the computer-generated ones from the reliable folks at Pixar.

Why live-action films aimed at this audience demographic can't be as good as those comprised of billions of 0's and 1's still confounds me, and this is yet another example. Somewhat odd, unbalanced and unfortunately flat for an action caper, "Catch That Kid" rates as just a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed January 31, 2004 / Posted February 6, 2004

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