I remember my mother taking my brother and me to see Escape From Witch Mountain nearly 30 years ago. That film had extra-talented young teens who outsmarted the adults, and it didn't make a lick of sense. But I loved it so much that I rushed the screen.
A recent showing of Catch That Kid played with no interruptions. There wasn't even much laughter going on. That told me something: It wasn't funny, even to kids.
But the kicker was this one kid about 10 to 15 seats to my right. He was playing with his sneakers. When he stomped his feet his sneakers made this pulsating light. He did that about 50 times, even during the big chase scenes.
Catch That Kid is a boorish, poorly conceived heist movie. The film revolves around three childhood friends who rob a bank: Maddy (Kristen Stewart) the rock-climbing tomboy, Gus (Max Thieriot) the mechanic, and Austin (Corbin Bleu) the artsy filmmaker. Kristen Stewart, best known for her role as Jodi Foster's daughter in Panic Room, does an adequate job of playing the leader of the group. The problem is Hollywood doesn't give its teenage girls a lot of depth. When Maddy isn't pouting she's whining, but that's really all she has to work with.
Maddy's pal Gus is first portrayed as an incompetent mechanic and then morphs into the tech specialist of the group. He's also guilty of being the product-placement shill as he attaches an Xbox to his go cart. As for Austin, I'm so sick of child characters who walk around with a video camera pretending to be young directors. Please folks, don't encourage your kids. There are too many film-school students already.
The kids are armed with codes provided by Maddy's mother, who designed the vault. Why do they need the cash? To pay for the surgery Maddy's father needs or he will never walk again. So let it be known that it's OK to rob a bank if your heart is in the right place.
The kids devise this great plan to access the vault using each of their collective skills. And then... oh, who cares? Let's just list the movies they stole from: For the beginning think Goonies. For the middle, think Spy Kids. And for the end, it's pure It's A Wonderful Life. Get the picture? Good.
--- Matthew Ehlers
When Mark Moskowitz was a kid reading books, he preferred twists, turns, and subplots to the drive toward the climax --- "I didn't like to get there too easily," he says in his documentary, Stone Reader.
And so it goes with his film, which charts his search for the author of a book, Stones of Summer (1972), which received glowing coverage in The New York Times and then vanished without a trace. The few who remember the book regard it in the highest light, and its author Dow Mossman as close to genius. So what happened?
Moskowitz pursues his author in a roundabout way, putting off talking to him and other principal subjects in favor of discourses and interviews focusing on the world of reading and book publishing. And these diversions prove to be the heart of the film.
The filmmaker portrays himself as a fan whose possession of a camera has allowed an obsessive curiosity to develop into an official quest. This is sometimes borne out by the seams left showing in the final product, but the film becomes more assured and engrossing as it goes on.
The suspense of the hunt, often engineered, is as interesting as the mystery of the merits of the book (now back in print), which in addition to being portrayed as brilliant, is often portrayed as unreadable. Find out more from both filmmaker and author, as they will be attending a Rochester premiere at the Dryden Theatre in the George Eastman House on Saturday, February 21, at 8 p.m.
--- Andy Davis