Once you have a genuine phenomenon like Twilight making its stars into a new crop of idols, how do you leverage their box office power before the bloom comes off the rose? One way is to find an existing project and shoehorn them in, as happened with Robert Pattinson and Water for Elephants; another is to throw together a new project as generic and forgettable as your lead, but a cast and crew to add some polish, and rely on droves of uncritical fans to turn out and justify it all. This seems to be the thinking behind Abduction, a transparent vehicle to monetize Taylor Lautner while his fan base lasts.
Lautner plays Nathan, who thinks he’s just a kid with anger issues in a well-to-do Pittsburgh suburb. He has the requisite big house, doting but strict parents (Maria Bello and Jason Isaacs), crush on the girl across the street (Lily Collins), Black Friend (Denzel Whitaker), and sneaking suspicion that there’s something weird or different about him; in short: he’s a blank slate for any teenager to project himself onto.
The difference is that Nathan is actually different, as he finds when he stumbles across a missing-persons website, which mainly serves to remind us that Lautner has the same vague, ill-defined features as one of those age-progressed pictures. As it happens, Nathan’s real father was a black-ops agent who stole a MacGuffin from another one (Michael Nyqvist), and his apparent mother and father — and his therapist (Sigourney Weaver) — are actually deep-cover CIA agents protecting him from being captured and used as a bargaining chip.
And of course visiting the website alerts the bad guys to Nathan’s location, kicking off a giant game of cat-and-mouse between Nathan and his new girlfriend, European hit squad of hazily-defined allegiance, and a team led by the only other agent who knows Nathan’s identity (Alfred Molina).
The plot, such as it is, is of course a thin excuse to string us from one fight or chase sequence to another, which themselves are mostly just there to showcase Lautner’s physique or athleticism. And even then it just barely hangs together; but this doesn’t really matter because nobody is going to see this movie for a good — or even a coherent — story, and it’s pretty clear that writer Shawn Christensen and director John Singleton know it.
There are all sorts of sly winks at any audience members actually paying attention that they know how silly this all is. Plot holes and inconsistencies follow a real cinematic sense that is entirely wasted here. There’s a whole language of clichés and tropes that are deployed in a way that can only be self-parodic. Christensen may be on his first feature film, but he’s better than this and trying to signal as much to mitigate the sell-out factor.
Besides, Singleton knows damn well how to frame and photograph a scene, making this a very well-directed disposable flick. But if you take a pig to Glamour Shots, it’s still a pig, and this is some pig indeed.
Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.