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‘Catch the Kid’ forgot to add the fun

This kid's caper film comes off like a poor man's ‘Spy Kids’
/ Source: The Associated Press

Like a poor man’s “Spy Kids,” “Catch That Kid” follows a trio of preteens who plot a bank heist, but it has none of the whiz-bang gizmos of Robert Rodriguez’s trilogy.

That should, in theory, be a good thing; the “Spy Kids” movies grew increasingly slick and bombastic. The “Catch That Kid” kids, meanwhile, drive go-carts to their covert mission instead of tricked-out vehicles, and use walkie-talkies to communicate rather than 3-D projector watches.

There should be a sort of old-school charm to such a movie, and a sense of reality that would allow young audiences to relate easily.

But “Catch That Kid” also lacks the essential ingredient of all great children’s movies: fun.

Indie director Bart Freundlich (“The Myth of Fingerprints”), making his first big studio film, has turned out something that’s surprisingly slow, ugly and — worst of all — boring.

In this remake of a Danish caper, 12-year-old Maddy (Kristen Stewart, Jodie Foster’s daughter in “Panic Room”) enlists two friends, Gus the mechanic (Max Thieriot) and Austin the computer geek (Corbin Bleu), to help her steal money to pay for her father’s operation.

Maddy’s dad (Sam Robards), who instilled in her his love of mountain climbing, has suffered a spinal injury and requires surgery that costs $250,000. In her adolescent naivete, she figures the best way to get the money is by stealing it from the bank where her mom (Jennifer Beals) happened to have designed the purportedly impregnable vault, which is suspended 100 feet off the ground.

(Is that you laughing at the casting choice? Beals did play a welder by day when she wasn’t dancing by night in “Flashdance” — maybe she’s applying some of those skills here.)

Maddy must use her climbing skills — and Stewart is unfailingly athletic and confident — to hoist herself onto and into the metal monstrosity. And though she’s a tomboy, she also must use her blossoming feminine wiles to coax cherubic Gus and ’fro-headed Austin (who both have secret crushes on her) into helping her complete her plan.

It sounds like it has all the makings of a delightful little movie, but Freundlich’s pacing is lifeless and off-kilter. He glosses over moments that should have emotional resonance; sequences that should be thrilling, including a police chase through downtown Los Angeles, are too muddled to be engaging.

The whole film is shot poorly — too often it’s dark, dreary and grainy, making it hard to determine what’s happening, much less get caught up in the action.

But even the most basic source of immature humor — the flatulence joke — failed to inspire laughter from kids in the audience at a recent screening.