Review: “Abduction”

1. You know, Taylor Lautner is only 19 years old. I know we all think of our movie stars as overgrown infants, as Peter Pans allowed to just float around the Chateau Marmont, having sex with models, bonding with their neglected daughters and driving Ferraris around in circles, but Taylor Lautner is, essentially, still an infant. He's 19, and he's already packaged, sold and distributed. His "Twilight" rival -- and I'm sorry I just typed that, rival -- Robert Pattinson is 25, and if you remember being either age, you know how much different 25 is from 19. No one thinks of Taylor Lautner as a child actor, not with that musculature, but he is. He is just a kid.

2. Not that Pattinson doesn't have his own problems -- I don't know the "Twilight" series well, but I do know that Pattinson didn't exactly set the world on fire in "Water For Elephants" and now has to carry a David Cronenberg movie -- but I find myself having sympathy for Taylor Lautner. If I were 19, I'd surely be envious of his worldwide fame and mattress of money on which he beds countless eager starlets, but I'm 35 years old, I'm an adult, I'm supposed to be over that, more mature than that. So I rise above it and note, with sincere sympathy, that young Lautner is doomed. After watching "Abduction," the supposed thriller that features Lautner in his first leading-man role, it's obvious that Lautner is being controlled (sorry, "advised") by people who do not have his best interests in mind. I know there is a buck to be made off Lautner, and that it must be made fast, before it fades, before this rush abates. But I am not sure Lautner knows that. He is, after all, 19.

3. I'm attempting to be as forgiving and empathetic as I can, because I'm really, really, reallyreallyreally trying to avoid saying the truth here, which is that as an actor, boy, is Lautner ever a stiff. (Dammit: I just said it. Oh, well, might as well run with it now.) I'm not sure I can top Alison Willmore's line over at Movieline: "this may be the first film I've even seen where when an actor goes to put his hand thoughtfully on his chin, it's so awkward I became afraid he'd somehow miss and poke himself in the eye." Seriously. You know what, though, let's try. Lautner's jaw line appears be held together by welding iron; his lines escape his mouth as if they are being shoved into a crowded subway car. The space just behind Lautner's eyes perhaps signifies infinity. I'm fairly certain any time he was asked to emote in this film, someone just kicked him in the groin and filmed the reaction. It's quite possible that every time the director needed him to run side of the frame to the other, he had an assistant throw a tennis ball. All right, none of those lines are better than Willmore's, but it's early in the morning. You get the point.

4. I'm not sure this is Lautner's fault: He is a 19-year-old kid, just a few years removed from sugar cereal commercials. Asking him to carry a conventional thriller, particularly one as ludicrous as "Abduction," is only about 18 months removed from child endangerment. "Abduction" would be a horrible movie -- and know, that it is horrible, it is really quite horrible -- with late-in-life Brando as the lead, though at least he would have been doing weird random things to keep it interesting, like eating a banana in the middle of a chase scene, or talking with a Peruvian accent or something. It is thoroughly depressing to realize that John Singleton, still the youngest man ever to be nominated for a Best Director Academy Award, is behind this: The level of cynicism and sloth that must have settled into that man's bloodstream over the last 20 years brings one negative thoughts about humanity in general. Singleton, at 24, had a chance to be a serious filmmaker. At 41, Woody Allen was making "Annie Hall." Martin Scorsese was making "The King of Comedy." Spike Lee was making "4 Little Girls." Singleton was never in those filmmakers' class, of course, but 41's a little young to be this thorough of a hack. In retrospect, that nomination is one I suspect the Academy would like back.

5. By the end of "Abduction," to be entirely honest, it's even becoming difficult for supporting actors like Sigourney Weaver and Alfred Molina to keep from laughing at the lunacy unfolding in "Abduction." It is exhausting to even describe what happens; it's a kaleidoscope of nonsense. (The movie does get one tiny extra credit for its finale at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, which is one of the finest baseball stadiums in the country.) Singleton keeps things moving in the same way that you rattle your keys at an infant; the baby does not understand what is happening, only that there is noise and occasional light. And in the middle of it all is Lautner, whom Singleton fetishizes in every frame, every muscle rippling, every vein popping, every brain cell sitting idly by, neglected and bored. Honestly, some adult should have stepped in, explained to Lautner that he needs to work on his skills, hone his craft, at least learn to move one eyebrow at a time. This is too much too soon. It's possible it's too much ever. There is money to be made off Taylor Lautner, however, and it will be made, while it can be. What happens to Lautner after that, when he's 21 years old and washed up, a has-been, a pop culture joke? Well, that's someone else's problem. I wonder how he'll feel. I wonder if he'll even know how to show it.

Grade: D-