Abduction (2011)

Taylor Lautner gets his own vehicle with John Singleton’s Abduction, a slovenly and inadvertently hilarious action film designed exclusively for young girls with impractical beliefs about how things actually work. It epitomizes just how far Singleton has fallen since the release of Boyz n the Hood and validates the hardly astonishing truism that Lautner just flat-out can’t carry a film on his own.

On its superficial surface, Abduction should be right up Lautner’s alley. It’s got baseball, martial arts and plenty of opportunities for him to take off his shirt. It’s like somebody transcribed the script based around his Facebook likes and somehow found decent actors, like Sigourney Weaver and Alfred Molina, to phone in their roles for a quick paycheque.

Lautner is Nathan Harper, an 18-year-old kid who hangs out with his friends and does cool stuff. He’s a good wrestler, seems to be relatively popular and looks the part. At the same time, he sees a therapist (Weaver) and thinks of himself as a “freak” for no reason whatsoever. Nathan lives with his dad (Jason Isaacs) and mom (Maria Bello) in a gigantic house in a wealthy suburban neighbourhood.

When Nathan commences a school project with the “cute” girl across the street, Karen (Lily Collins), he stumbles upon a website for missing children. After making fun of how the missing kids would look through age advancement software, Nathan discovers someone who looks exactly like him. This sets a series of events in motion that reveals a world of intrigue, making out on trains and, of course, Russian villainy.

What we have with Abduction is a film that is simply incompetent. It was written (read: jotted on a serviette in crayon) by Shawn Christensen, the lead singer of indie rock band stellastarr*. The screenplay seems like a put-on as it staggers from action movie convention to action movie convention, all the while eluding essentials like character development, suspense, an interesting plot, and, you know, action.

Singleton’s film is packed with incomprehensible nuttiness. Consider Nathan’s relationship with his parents in the beginning of the picture. He battles his dad in the backyard and gets his ass handed to him, but it’s played for laughs as Bello’s character flashes a slightly concerned housewife face and trails it with a “boys will be boys” quip. Later, Nathan’s wayward dad refers to Karen as “hot.”

Speaking of Karen, her character – and Collins’ wet dog portrayal – is among the poorest put to film in 2011. As emaciated as Lautner is in the personality department, Collins is downright anorexic. She seems incapable of spawning emotion and trundles through her “girl next door” routine, gushing clichéd lines and ad-libs with almost side-splitting apathy.

Whether it’s the movie’s scoundrel (Michael Nyqvist) threatening to kill all of Nathan’s Facebook friends or the remorseless tween languor of the simplistic, bone-headed script, Abducted is a dreadful film in every way. It proves that Lautner can’t carry a film any more than he can actually change into a wolf and allows for nothing of interest if you happen to be even a shade beyond the intellectual level of a 12-year-old girl.

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