After the futuristic drama of AI: Artificial Intelligence and Minority Report, director Steven Spielberg backtracks to the 1960s for this stylish slice of effortless entertainment. Leonardo DiCaprio exudes movie-star charisma as Frank Abagnale Jr who, while still a teenager, charmed and cheated his way across America, posing as an airline pilot, doctor and lawyer in order to cash forged cheques. Tom Hanks turns in a generous, unshowy supporting performance as Carl Hanratty, the dogged FBI agent who obsessively pursued the larcenous young man. Sentimentality is allowed to intrude with the depiction of Abagnale’s family life, but not into Christopher Walken’s superb turn as the conman’s father. Despite these momentary dips in the bright and breezy feel of the piece, the deft blend of comedy and suspense, great period detail and sheer directorial class ensure that this is one of Spielberg’s most purely enjoyable movies.
The often dazzling, special effects-driven slapstick tends to overshadow the fact that there are some slyer, more sophisticated laughs on offer in this blockbusting family comedy. Bill Murray is terrifically deadpan and sleazy as the dubious leader of a company of ghost busters (that includes the film’s co-writers, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, plus Ernie Hudson) who are called into action when ancient spirits are let loose in New York. Sigourney Weaver shows an admirably light touch as a possessed cellist, and Rick Moranis also scores in his breakthrough movie. Director Ivan Reitman stages some spectacular set pieces, including an enjoyably daft finale with a giant marshmallow man. The concept was so successful that the film spawned a cartoon series, and almost the entire team reunited for a sequel.
Director Wes Anderson and his co-writer Owen Wilson – who first caught the eye with their low-budget debut Bottle Rocket – score again with this unusual black comedy, which centres around an extremely unconventional teen hero. The boy in question is 15-year-old Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), one of the least popular pupils at Rushmore Academy, who nonetheless runs just about every club and school activity in a megalomaniacal effort to further himself. Schwartzman gives a superbly nerdy performance, but Bill Murray – playing a depressed millionaire – steals every scene in this quirky, edgy and very funny tale of an outsider who just might end up leading all those who laugh at him.