'Kids' Behaving Badly

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 6, 2004

IT'S A GOOD thing the intended audience for "Catch That Kid" -- a tepid comic adventure in which a trio of likable but felonious middle-schoolers try to steal $250,000 -- is too young to have seen most of its myriad precedents, which include everything from "Robin Hood" to "Sneakers" to the recent remake of "The Italian Job." For those with a few more movies under their belt, though, the formulaic, Pee Wee League bank-heist film offers little in the way of originality, real excitement or even genuinely transgressive behavior.

The most criminal thing about it? Its reliance on tired stock characters and plot grooves so well worn the entire movie could use a shot of Botox. It even contains the line, "We are sooo grounded," a creaky quip by one of its preteen protagonists that is by now so overused that it sounds like something only an adult as nerdy as I am would say.

Speaking of adults, with the exception of the three leads -- Kristen Stewart as 12-year-old ringleader Maddy and Corbin Bleu and Max Thieriot as her romantically smitten criminal accomplices -- the film is populated not by real people but by cardboard cutouts. At the head of the list is Maddy's saintly father (Sam Robards), whose lapse into -- I kid you not -- paralysis early in the film as a result of an old mountain-climbing injury precipitates the predictable action. When Maddy learns that an experimental medical procedure is available in Europe that might allow Dad to walk again, she quickly recruits her two pint-size pals, one a prepubescent grease monkey (cute-as-a-button Thieriot), the other a budding computer genius (mop-topped Bleu), to abet her in the theft of a quarter-million dollars from the local bank.

Unfortunately, the money is suspended in a vault hanging 100 feet above ground. Fortunately, Maddy happens to be an expert climber herself, and her mother (Jennifer Beals) is the security consultant who designed the system. Unfortunately, all of this is still flagrantly illegal, no matter how good the cause. Fortunately, the bank president (Michael Des Barres) is so flamboyantly evil -- he already has turned down Mom's request for a legitimate loan -- that he makes Mr. Potter of "It's a Wonderful Life" look like Santa Claus.

Other caricatures include James LeGros and Stark Sands as a pair of bumbling bank guards whose antic incompetence is worthy of the Keystone Kops.

Other humor, such as it is, includes liberal use of such gluteo-centric epithets as "butt-munch" and frequent, would-be hilarious mispronunciation of the word "Ausfahrt," a German command that the bank's Rottweilers have supposedly been trained to respond to (even though the word literally means "exit"). In addition to the crime itself, the film features one example of bad behavior after another, including a getaway through nighttime traffic in nitro-enhanced go-carts. Kids, do not try this at home. In a sense, I feel guilty being overly negative on what is, in essence, a live-action cartoon. On the one hand, I'm tempted to give this derivative "Kid" the whipping of a lifetime. On the other, it's not worth getting up out of my chair.

CATCH THAT KID (PG, 91 minutes) -- Contains some slapstick violence, a fair amount of flatulence- and buttock-centered humor, and daredevil stunts. Area theaters.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company