If you’re wondering if the new Danish film “Catch That Girl” (or “Klatretosen”) is your cup of tea, consider this one-line synopsis: “Three 12-year olds, desperate for money, decide to rob a bank.” If that sounds like something you or your kids might like, then “Catch That Girl” is for you. If a kiddie version of “Mission Impossible” isn’t up your alley, then look for something else.
“Catch That Girl” concerns aspiring climber Ida (the very likeable Julie Zangenberg), a 12-year old girl who worships her father, a former climber who had to quit the sport after a climbing accident nearly killed him. Nine years later, that accident has come back to haunt Ida’s dad, who is suddenly stricken with a brain illness and sent to the hospital. There, the family is informed that the only way to save Ida’s father is to fly him to America where he can get an experimental operation. Unfortunately the Danish state doesn’t pay for experimental operations, so the family is on their own. After Ida’s mother exhausts all avenues to gather the 1.5 million kroners (don’t ask what that is in dollars), Ida comes up with a plan to rob a new state-of-the-art bank with her two buddies, mechanic Sebastian (Stefan Pagels) and computer hacker Jonas (Mads Ravn), both of whom have crushes on her.
Of course, there are complications. One is Ida’s mother forcing her to babysit her 2-year old brother Williams on the night of the planned robbery. So what does our heroine do? Why, she decides to bring him along for the ride, of course!
Like all good caper films, after the set-up there is, well, the set up, which consists of: the recruitment stage, followed by the planning stage, which is followed by the robbery itself. Keep in mind that this is a movie for kids, and despite some very heartfelt scenes between Ida and her ill father, the movie is played mostly for laughs. The robbery is actually very short, but that’s not much of a surprise since the film itself barely runs 90 minutes long. After all, kids (the movie’s main audience) don’t have all that big of an attention span.
That isn’t to say “Catch That Girl” isn’t a worthwhile film for those over 12. It’s quite funny, and as mentioned, Ida’s scenes with her father are very touching. Director Wullenweber chose brilliantly in giving the lead role to young Julie Zangenberg, who just steals every scene she’s in by giving a sympathetic and endearing performance as a 12-year old with big plans and a sharp mind to carry them out.
Despite all those pluses, I must take issue with the movie’s bank robbery — obviously the film’s selling point — which is simply not all that exciting. One impact scene, where Ida faces her greatest fears by having to climb 30 meters up a metal shaft in order to get to the bank’s vault (because the vault is suspended in the air), is not handled all that well. Because of her father’s accident, Ida feels the pressure of the climb. But as directed, there is no impact, just a straightforward climb that ends without fanfare. Maybe it’s because the actress lacks the ability to sell the sequence, or Wullenweber just doesn’t have that great of a handle on it.
In a nutshell, don’t expect any brilliant scenes like the one in “Mission Impossible” where superagent/thief Tom Cruise has to dangle from the ceiling suspended on wires, while trying to keep his sweat from hitting the laser triggers below him. There is one similar scene in “Catch That Girl,” but it’s not nearly as impressive. Then again, Cruise isn’t 12-years old, so there you have it.
Regardless, “Catch That Girl” is a good film for kids, and adults will most likely enjoy it. There’s plenty of humor, and Julie Zangenberg is a pure delight. The young actress even has her facial expressions down, letting us read her mind even as she’s thinking them. Her co-stars are not shabby either. Both boys play their roles well as they battle each other for Ida’s affections. The two boys’ personal struggles with their family, on the other hand, are not very convincing. It seems Jonas has neglectful parents and Sebastian has to endure an abusive older brother who likes to smack him around. Whatever.
Of course, this is a kid’s movie, so there’s nothing that couldn’t be fixed in the final few minutes via a sappy coda that leaves room for nothing as bothersome as reality. But then again, that’s the whole point of the movie, isn’t it?
Hans Fabian Wullenweber (director) / Nicolai Arcel, Erlend Loe, Hans Fabian Wullenweber (screenplay)
CAST: Julie Zangenberg …. Ida
Stefan Pagels Andersen …. Sebastian
Mads Ravn …. Jonas