Taylor Lautner Stars in Silly, Ineffective ‘Abduction’

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Rating: 1.5/5.0

CHICAGO – After the success of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” and “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” Taylor Lautner could have taken any number of paths to breakout with his own star vehicle. He chose to try and fashion himself into an action star, appearing in this weekend’s “Abduction” as a young man discovering he has a very special past. He gets to find love, kick some ass, and even kill some bad guys. And all of it is very, very silly.

It may not be the most insightful assessment a critic can offer, but it’s the word that keeps coming to mind regarding “Abduction” – silly. Everything about this movie is increasingly goofy as if director John Singleton (yes, THAT John Singleton, former Oscar nominee for “Boyz N the Hood” now purely a director-for-hire) is more and more annoyed by his own creation as it goes along. The final act features some of the most ridiculous screenwriting of the year with illogical decisions, uninteresting characters, and, well, a lot of silly.

Photo credit: Lionsgate

There’s a whole subgenre of films that play to that teenage dream that our ordinary lives are actually something much greater. What if your parents weren’t just your parents but CIA spies? What if they were holding a dark secret about your past? Nathan (Lautner) starts to suspect his ‘rents (Maria Bello & Jason Isaacs, both well above this material) are hiding something after he sees a picture of a kid that looks like him on a missing persons site. The site morphs toddler photos into what they might look like now and, what do you know, one of ‘em looks like Nathan. And the photo on the site even features a kid wearing the same shirt with the same stain that is handily in Nathan’s drawer (yes, these are the worst CIA handlers EVER at trying to keep secrets).

Before Nathan can really interrogate his parents about what the Hell is going on, mom and dad are dead. Men in black descend on the house, kill them, and send Nathan and his new gal pal Karen (Lily Collins) on the run. Nathan tries to call 911 but gets patched into a questionable CIA head named Burton (Alfred Molina), who orders him to come in. This is when Nathan’s shrink Dr. Bennett (Sigourney Weaver) reveals that she’s another one of the boy’s protectors and that Burton can’t be trusted. Not only are Burton and the CIA after Nathan & Karen but so are some seriously-scary foreign bad guys who want a list that they believe the young man has in his possession.

After a long opening (which actually works better than the most of the movie for reasons I’ll get into later), “Abduction” is essentially a chase movie that goes pretty much nowhere. Singleton wastes the opportunity to really send Nathan & Karen on the run, staging a reasonably-entertaining train sequence but then rushing to a final scene at a Pittsburgh Pirates game in such a way that it leaves plot threads hanging and forces a few characters into completely unbelievable actions. The final act of “Abduction” is an absolute mess, as if everyone involved was in a hurry to get home and realized audiences probably would be by then too.

Photo credit: Lionsgate

It’s not like the first two acts are that remarkable either. Lautner does the best work of his career in the opening scenes of the film, drinking with friends and flirting with his longtime unrequited love. He actually looks comfortable on film for the first time in his career. Once the action of the piece kicks in, all sense of believability goes away. Lautner just can’t sell the action hero aspect of the character at all and his “serious face” looks too much like his “sad face” and his “intense face.” He simply doesn’t yet have the range to make this character interesting. And he’s not helped by a co-star with similar issues. Lily Collins may be beautiful, but that’s about all we learn about her character.

The supporting cast does their best to pick up Lautner’s slack but even stars like Sigourney Weaver and Alfred Molina can’t make this silly script work. I wish both had been directed by Singleton to play it further over the top and really turn “Abduction” into B-movie escapism. It takes itself too damn seriously, especially when it has a screenplay this damn silly.

“Abduction” stars Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Sigourney Weaver, Michael Nyqvist, Jason Isaacs, and Maria Bello. It was written by Shawn Christensen and directed by John Singleton. It is rated PG-13 and was released on September 23rd, 2011.

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