Cast: Nathan Harper (Taylor Lautner), Karen (Lily Collins), Kevin Harper (Jason Isaacs), Mara Harper (Maria Bello), Agent Burton (Alfred Molina), Dr. Bennett (Sigourney Weaver)
Director: John Singleton
Theatrical release: 09/23/2011 DVD Date: 01/17/2012
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 106 minutes
— ♦ —
Review: Here's what I don't get: how could a studio take such a promising premise for a thriller, spend so much money on it — reportedly some $35 million — and make such a mess of it? I'll take a stab at answering this …
Taylor Lautner — he of "Twilight" fame — stars as Nathan Harper, a high school senior, who learns his parents are not his birth mother and father. But before they can answer any of his questions, they are murdered. Fleeing the scene, he embarks on a journey to discover not only why they were killed, but clues to his own identity as well.
Issue number one — not the most important, but possibly the most obvious — is the title. Who, exactly, is abducted here? Not Nathan. He's been living with a loving set of parents since he was a toddler and — potential spoiler alert — they did not abduct him. Nor has anyone else in the film been abducted. So where did this title come from? How is it related in any way, shape or form to the plot? Short answer: it isn't. A not unrelated issue is the tagline: "They stole his life. He's taking it back." Really? Stole his life? This kid wanted for nothing, had everything a teen could ask for. How was his life stolen by any meaningful definition of the word? OK, so the marketing folks came up with all this before they even knew anything about the movie and no one cared enough to change it.
Which brings me to issue number two — and this one may be the most important: No one seems to have cared how this movie came together. The script is a mess, the direction more appropriate to a comedy than a thriller, and the acting, in particular that of Lautner and his co-star Lily Collins, flat and monotonic. Oh, to be sure, the "adult" stars — that would be anyone other than Lautner and Collins — give it the old college try, but there's only so much they can do with the often inane dialog and listless direction they're given. Lautner and Collins, though, apparently don't have enough experience to even credibly fake it. Not unlike the students they play in the film, I got the impression that they studied acting from some how-to book they downloaded from the Internet, and then tried to apply what they learned to the script they were given.
The cynical me — which, to be fair, is probably the everyday me — suspects that the studio thought they had a ready-made audience of young, mostly female movie-goers, who had seen Lautner in the "Twilight" movies and would pay to see him in something, anything else. It didn't matter if the script actually made sense or if the actors actually stepped into their roles. It didn't matter if virtually every scene creates a situation the details of which are quickly ignored, overlooked or forgotten, or raises a question or two or twenty that is never answered or addressed.
Which is all so unfortunate since the premise is so promising and I can imagine — given a solid screenwriter and a director with a vision — this being a really good movie. Instead, Abduction is appropriate only for unapologetic fans of Taylor Lautner … and to a much lesser degree those of Lily Collins (who, despite being in nearly every scene, has a relatively small, completely forgettable part). Everyone else will wonder how Sigourney Weaver, Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello, and Alfred Molina — all really good actors when given a chance — got conned into appearing in this incredibly poor excuse for a thriller. That, sadly, is a question I cannot answer.