The Hippo


May 26, 2020








Abduction (PG-13)

By Amy Diaz

Taylor Lautner peels off his shirt and saddles up for some non-wolf-related adventure in Abduction, a teen spy-kid movie.

Nathan Harper (Lautner) is just your average, not particularly forward-thinking teenager. When we first meet him, he’s riding his friend’s truck on the way to a party — not “riding in,” he’s sitting on the hood, leaning against the windshield as the truck curves around mountain roads. Then, at the party, he beer-pongs until he passes out and awakes the next morning shirtless (but of course) in the front yard of the girl whose party it was.

It’s in this state that his father Kevin (Jason Isaacs) arrives to pick him up. (At least Nathan stuck around to help the girl clean up a little.) Kevin decides to teach young Nathan a lesson by grounding him, sure, but also by making him box in the back yard while still hungover. It seems that boxing and wrestling and assorted self-defense-type exercises are a big part of father-son bonding. Perhaps this is one method of dealing with Nathan’s rage issues. The other is his therapy with Dr. Bennett (Sigorney Weaver). He is often disturbed by one particular nightmare in which he is watching a woman be attacked. Oddly, Dr. Bennett encourages him to let that go, not to find out more about this maybe-memory.

Even odder, when Nathan and girl-next-door crush Karen (Lily Collins) start working on some kind of school project together involving missing persons, Nathan finds a picture of a kid who looks very similar to a younger version of himself. Even curiouser, the projected-aging image produces a nearly perfect rendering of himself.
Thankfully, all of these strange circumstances cut short whatever weak moves Nathan may have been considering with Karen. After she leaves, he digs around, finding very few baby pictures but finding a shirt identical to the shirt worn by the “missing” boy. Eventually, he asks his heretofore mother Mara (Maria Bello) if it’s true that she’s not his real mom. Unfortunately, fake-mom and Karen aren’t the only people he discussed the predicament with. He instant messaged with the missing person site but on the other line was not some helpful law enforcement office but some shifty-looking toady who answered to some shifty-looking Cold-War-accented guy, who we eventually learn is named Kozlow (Michael Nyqvist), who rounds up his men and prepares to come for Nathan.

Thus, after Nathan confronts Mara but before she and Kevin have time to explain the situation to him, the first two of many suit-wearing, gun-toting men show up at Nathan’s family home and violence ensues.

Mostly kicking and punching with a little shooting and exploding.

Nathan and — because the audience is paying good money to see someone make out with Lautner — Karen are soon on the run not only from Kozlow and his men but also from the CIA and Agent Burton (Alfred Molina), who may or may not being trying to help Nathan, who can say?

Lautner mainly sticks to three different facial/bodily expressions: (1) fist clenched (mostly in anger), (2) eyes narrowed, brow forward (anger, confusion, mistrust, possibly hunger) and (3) everything from 2 plus a soft voice (extreme anger, preparing to make out). Add in some kicking and punching, some close-ups, some abrupt and shoehorned-in romantic scenes and the occasional eyes welling with tears (of anger, joy, possibly hunger) and you have his whole performance. Actually, you have the whole movie. In fact, I’m pretty sure the point of this movie boils down to about four scenes: (1) he wakes up shirtless on the lawn and remains shirtless for minutes, (2) he does a goofy bit of nervous clean-up when Karen comes to his house, (3) he makes out (close-up on the lips) with the moderately useless Karen character, (4) he beats the living poo out of a henchman on a train.

If The CW were going to make a TV show about spies, this is more or less what it’d feel like — only there would be more hot girls for potential future hook-ups with Nathan and there’s maybe a 60-percent chance it would be better acted and better written. Or, at least, more cleverly written, with more snarky pop culture references, which, yes, can be boring but at least it’s something. Even if it is only artificially shooting a spark into the proceedings, the showiest, slangiest script is better than the damp Wonder bread we’re presented with here. As it is, most of the dialogue here is just redundant — the gun they are shooting or the pout they are pouting really says it all. Since being a means of wringing dollars from Team Jacob girls seems to be the sole point of this movie, the story feels like someone came up with the barest of bare bones and then stopped there: a kid on the run with a girl. The movie doesn’t even go the extra mile to have any fun with its characters and their predicament. There’s a scene about half-way through (and it also appears in the trailers) where Nathan finds himself holding the keys to a very nice sports car. The smile he and Karen share over the thought of driving this — even though killers are in hot pursuit and they really have nowhere to go — hints at the “superhero figures out his powers”-type direction the movie could have taken but didn’t. C-

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, brief language, some sexual content and teen partying. Directed by John Singleton and written by Shawn Christensen,
Abduction is an hour and 46 minutes long and is distributed by Lionsgate.

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