CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
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NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by wide eyed15 who says... "Before I begin, this film is the most charming picture ever. It's a great comeback for poor Leonardo. That aside, this movie has a lot of flashbacks, so I'll try to keep it as simple as possible."
NOTE FROM DAN, The Movie Spoiler: "I loved this movie!"
After an incredibly artistic credits roll, we see the TV show, "To Tell the Truth" with three men all claiming to be Frank Abagnale Jr., a young man who impersonated doctors, lawyers, teachers, and most infamously, pilots. One of the star panelists asks one of the contestents, (the real Frank Abagnale Jr.) who finally caught him. He replies that his name was Carl Hanratty and we have a flash back to a few years before.
Carl Hanratty, an FBI agent who specializes in bank fraud, is in France to talk with an imprisoned Abagnale. Despite the language barrier, he eventually is able to see him. Abagnale looks very ill in the dank prison cell, with blood crusted around his mouth and nose and a horrible cough. Even though Hanratty thinks he's just faking, Abagnale eventually passes out on the floor and Hanratty calls for the prison officials to get him a doctor. It's obvious that, despite these men's different agendas, Hanratty still respects and cares for Abagnale.
Unfortunately, while the prison officials wash their hands (because of the lice on Abagnale), the latter manages to slip out. However, despite his best efforts, he is too weak from prison life and can barely walk. He is captured and we have another flashback.
The Abagnale family seems to have the perfect life. Abagnale Sr. just received the lifetime achievement award from his company, and they are obviously very well off. They have a large beautiful home, a great car, and Frank Jr. attends a private school when not absorbed in his comic books. His parents seem to love each other very much, as Frank Sr. always tells his son how they met in a small French town during the war and fell in love.
Their perfect world falls apart, though, when it turns out that Frank Sr. has made a few business errors and is being hounded by the I.R.S. He even has his son dress up as a chauffer, getting him a suit at the last minute by using his natural charisma and "finding" the store owner's beautiful necklace in the parking lot.
Frank Jr. doesn't understand how his father having a chauffer could possibly help them get a loan, but his father says uses the metaphorical examples of the Yankees. He says the Yankees win not because of Micky Mantel, but because other teams are distracted by the pin stripes. Essentially, that man is always fooled by the outward appearences.
Still, the bank turns them down for the loan because they aren't familiar with Frank Sr. The family's house and car are repossessed by the I.R.S. and they move into a tiny apartment. It is there that Frank celebrate's his 16th birthday, and as a present, his father opens up a checking account for him with 25 dollars in it.
Meanwhile, Frank Jr. has switched schools. While asking an attractive girl where his French class is, a bigger kid bumps into on purpose, commenting that he's dressed like a teacher. (Frank Jr. is still wearing his suit and tie, mandatory at the private school he used to go to.)
With this in mind, and with the knowledge that the real French teacher is out sick, he tells everyone he *is* the teacher, and fools the entire class. He assigns homework, teaches, and no one has a clue he's really just another 16 year-old kid. So it begins.
The principal eventually finds out, afer about a week, and Frank Jr.'s parents are called in. While they are talking with the principal, Frank Jr. waits outside. A girl comes to the secretary with a note supposedly from her mother that excuses her from class. After the secretary leaves for a moment, Frank Jr. tells her that she had better fold the letter up or the secretary will know it's a fake. Establishing himself as a remarkable perceptive and intelligent boy, Frank proceeds to explain that when you receive a note from your mother, the first thing you do is fold it up before putting it in your pocket. The girl takes his advice and no one is any the wiser about the forged note.
After this Frank Jr.'s parents come out of the meeting. His mother looks disappointed, but Frank Sr. just grins at his son.
It's not long after this that Frank comes home and finds his mother with one of his father's friends. He knows what's going on and it's not too much later that his parents are divorced and his mother leaves.
Rather than be forced to choose which parent to live with, Frank runs away and lives on his own until being kicked out due to two bounced checks. He tries every ploy possible to try to get backs to allow him to cash in on faulty checks, but he's not getting anywhere because he's just a poor little kid with no name.
Finally, he sees an airline pilot with young stewerdesses flocking around him and little children asking for his autograph. So Frank Jr. pretends to be a kid working for the school newspaper and interviews a pilot to find out everything about flying and the answers to all the questions he has. Using the new name of Barry Allen, (the same alias as The Flash, from his comic books) he then calls PanAm and tells them he's a pilot who's lost his uniform, and they get him all set up.
He also makes his own checks. By soaking collectible planes with the PanAm sticker, he eventually steams off the stickers that make the checks official. He also has something that looks like a typewriter that allows all his checks to be perfect.
By now, Hanratty is on his tail. The know that someone is costing banks a lot of money, but they don't know who. They catch up to him at a beach resort, but Frank Jr. fools Hanratty into thinking he's a special agent too, and that the real Abagnale has already been captured. Hanratty believes him, and by the time he's realized the truth, Frank Jr. is already on his merry way.
Frank Jr. is rolling in the money by now; he even buys his dad a new car. His dad can't accept it because he's still being bothered by the I.R.S. about the money he owes, but he appreciates the gesture.
On Christmas Eve, Frank Jr. calls Hanratty and says he didn't mean to make a fool of him. He asks if he has a family, because he noticed a wedding ring. Hanratty says not anymore, and then exclaims that Frank didn't call to apologize. He only called because he had no one else to call. Frank Jr. slams down the receiver, but a tradition has been established, and he calls Hanratty on every Christmas Eve after that.
Although still pretending to be a pilot, Frank Jr. meets up with a cute nurse, Brenda, in a hospital and decides to be a doctor too. He forges all the documents and degrees he needs and takes a new alias, Frank Conners. (Like Dr. Conners from Spider-Man.) He watches all sorts of medical movies and shows to become familiar with the terminology.
He and Brenda become pretty close, and she confesses that she is estranged from her parents because she had an abortion two years before. Frank then asks her if marrying a doctor would restore her good graces with her parents. So they fly to New Orleans, where her parents live, so they can get their blessing.
During dinner, Frank Jr. says he also has a law degree and later, Brenda's father, a lawyer, asks him who he really is. Frank Jr. tries to tell the truth, that he's not a doctor or a lawyer, just someone who loves his daughter. Brenda's father thinks he's just trying to be a romantic however, and Frank Jr. and Brenda get his blessing.
Frank passes the bar exam and becomes a prosecutor in Brenda's father's firm. He watches Perry Mason shows to help him learn what to do. He and Brenda are preparing to marry, and the FBI is hot on his tail. Hanratty knows that Frank Jr. can't change his name anymore because he has a girl who believes he's something he's not.
Right before he gets married, Frank flies back home to see his father, who is now a postal clerk. He invites him to the wedding, and says he will talk to his mother a get her to come too. Frank Sr. then informs his son that his mother is married to the one she was having an affair with. Feeling completely helpless, Frank begs his father to tell himself to stop. He doesn't want to run anymore. Frank Sr. only says "You can't stop. There never gonna catch you." Frank Jr. flies back to New Orleans.
The FBI crashes Frank Jr. and Brenda's bridal shower and Frank escapes after telling Brenda everything, and telling her how she can meet him: at the Miami International Airport in two days.
Unforunately, when Frank Jr. goes to pick her up, he sees an agent talking to her and notices all these FBI agents there. So he calls a local school and tells them that he's a pilot from PanAm who is recruting girls for a special scholarship program for those who want to be stewardesses. They will fly to Europe for two months. Surrounding himself with the attractive girls, the agents don't even notice him at the airport, only the smiling faces of the women surrounding him and he safely makes his getaway.
Even though the FBI wants to give up, Hanratty won't. He knows that Frank is circling Europe, and remembers that when interviewing Frank Jr.'s mother, she mentioned the small French town where she grew up. Hanratty goes there and dicovers Frank Jr. making checks in an abandoned building. Even after saying Hanratty is just going to have to catch him, he eventrually surrenders, tired of the whole game. He is then taken away into France's custody, despite Hanratty's efforts to stay with him.
We then flash back to the present, where Hanratty and Frank Jr. are riding in a plane. Hanratty wants to know how Frank Jr. was able to cheat on the bar exam to become a lawyer, but Frank Jr. won't say. As they near home, Frank Jr. says he wants to call his father before the latter sees him on TV. It's then that Hanratty breaks it to him that his father has died, having taken a fall down some stairs. Frank Jr. starts going a little crazy almost, and goes to the bathroom.
It's time to land, and the stewerdess wants the agents to take their seats, but Frank Jr. won't come out of the bathroom. They break the door down and find he had unscrewed the toilet and gone into the cargo area of the plane.
Frank Jr. runs to his mother's house, and looks through the window. There is a little girl there and it appears his mother has forgotten all about him now that she has her new family. Police sirens roar as they run onto the lawn, and Frank surrendurs.
Frank Jr. is incarcerated. His only visitor is Hanratty, who brings him comic books. Frank Jr. asks what's in his briefcase, and Hanratty shows him the fraudulent checks within. Frank Jr. tells him that it has to be a teller, someone within the bank, and Hanratty is impressed.
Knowing Frank Jr. could be an asset to the FBI, they have him brought in. He will serve the remainder of his sentence under the supervision of Hanratty.
He helps a lot of frauds be caught, but can't resist the urge to escape again. Just as he is preparing to board an airplane as a pilot, Hanratty appears. Hanratty explains that he has faith that Frank Jr. is going to be back for work, and that no one is chasing him now.
The next work day comes around, and there is no Frank Jr. Just as Hanratty is starting to get nervous, he appears, and they start working on another faulty check.
Before the credits roll, we are told that Frank Abagnale Jr. has helped capture many bank frauds and is paid millions per year for all his work. Not only that, but he has been married for twenty-six years, has children and grandchildren, and lives a quiet life in the midwest. He and Hanratty have remained friends to this day.
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