'Catch That Kid': Let This One Get Away

By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 6, 2004

Kristen Stewart brings her best game face to "Catch That Kid," a family action-adventure in which the young actress plays a 12-year-old tomboy named Maddy. We meet Maddy while she's climbing up a pipe on a vertiginous-looking industrial tower; she's outfitted with state-of-the-art bungee cords and carabiners. When, midclimb, she receives a video-phone call from her mother, she cuts a convincingly agile figure as a girl-powered high-tech action hero.

Soon, Maddy meets up with her best friends, a computer nerd named Austin (Corbin Bleu) and a gearhead named Gus (Max Thieriot) at a go-kart track run by her father, whose own attempt to ascend Mount Everest has served as both inspiration and cautionary tale. While climbing, he suffered a serious injury, which flares up and leaves him paralyzed, a condition that can be cured only by an expensive operation in Europe. Desperate for money, Maddy enlists her pals to break into the bank where her mother works as a security consultant, steal a quarter of a million dollars and save her father's life.

With its three very appealing young lead actors and less than idealized portrait of childhood, "Catch That Kid" at first glance looks like it might resemble "Holes," one of the most refreshingly sophisticated family pictures released last year. But soon enough the promised energy, humor and action give way to a lethargic and largely laugh-free procedural. "Catch That Kid" boasts a hip cast: Jennifer Beals plays Maddy's overworked mom, former rocker Michael Des Barres is something of a poor man's Terence Stamp in the role of a villainous banker, and James LeGros happily hams it up as a deranged security guard.

But none of these turns results in sparks on-screen, and even Stewart -- whose hooded, wary expression perfectly captures the anxieties and frustrations of even the bravest preteen girl -- can't imbue "Catch That Kid" with the energy it needs to take off. For all its high-tech tomfoolery and high-speed go-kart chases, the movie has the warmed-over feel of the Americanized remake that it is -- in this case of a Danish film called "Klatretosen."

Moreover, the movie isn't only boring; it's troubling: At one point, Maddy uses her feminine wiles to manipulate the emotions of her friends, both of whom have crushes on her; later on, her mother covers for her crime with an elaborate lie. Thus two pretty serious ethical lapses turn out to be not only free of consequences but rewarded. Those parents forced to sit through "Catch That Kid" may want to use the movie's running time to prepare for the discussion about right and wrong that will no doubt ensue once the lights come up.

Catch That Kid (91 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG for language and rude humor.

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