There’s so much about Abduction, the new Taylor Lautner thriller, that’s appalling, fascinating, and unintentionally hilarious. Abduction is a pretty bad movie, but after my showing — set in a theater about half full (I’m being optimistic!) — pretty much everyone left in a good mood. In fact, I’d even recommend the film to most of my friends. It was bad in such a blatant way that it didn’t feel insulting, and it certainly wasn’t boring. After half an hour, I stopped paying close attention the plot, because it made no sense whatsoever and was riddled with holes, but the many jaw-droppingly awkward moments drew delighted ridicule from the audience. For all the wrong reasons, Abduction is sparkling entertainment. I’ll throw up a SPOILER ALERT here, but honestly, it doesn’t matter if I give anything away any major twists — you’ll be surprised by plenty regardless.
The movie starts off with Lautner’s character, Nathan, and his toolbag friends acting and talking the way a cynical middle-aged person might think teenagers act and talk. (Constant whooping, unfunny jokes, off-key references to social media.) There were lots of loud whispers in the theater along the lines of, “This is the worst movie I’ve ever seen.” (Talking in movies usually makes me murderous, but the peanut gallery during this movie was the best part). But at the turning point in the story, when Nathan and Karen (Lily Collins — more on her shortly) use extremely unrealistic computer software to find out that Nathan is being raised by people who aren’t his real parents, the audience commentary shifted to ironic declarations of, “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.” Once a character utters the words, “There’s a bomb in the oven” — and the two leads stroll over to gawk at the bomb for an awkwardly long time before running away — you really can’t help but throw your hands up and just have a good time.
Now, I like Collins. She did a good job in The Blind Side, has striking eyebrows, and I don’t doubt she’ll make a lovely Snow White — but this movie does her no favors. In fact, after a certain point, everyone in the audience started cracking up whenever she opened her mouth. Movie-goers mocked her inability to convey flirtatiousness or even just being physically cold (she may as well just say, “Brrrrrr!” and be done with it), and Karen has some inexplicable habits, such as talking to herself like a crazy person, or toweling off her completely dry hair for no reason at all. The buildup to her and Nathan’s first makeout session is almost unwatchably long and uncomfortable — and once it gets going, she abruptly interrupts it to go grab crappy Amtrak food. What?
It’s hard to tell, but Nathan and Karen cross many state lines during the course of the movie; they start in Pittsburgh, and at one point they hitchhike all the way to Virginia in a stranger’s 18-wheeler, all while running away from the CIA and Russian terrorists who threaten to kill all of Nathan’s Facebook friends. At one point, they turn up in Nebraska, yet somehow, Nathan’s nerdy best friend Gilly (Denzel Whitaker), who’s the unsung hero of the movie, shows up in a car wherever Nathan happens to be, whenever he’s needed. Seriously, Gilly deserves a prize.
I’m also fascinated by the incredible adult cast of this movie. They’re all underutilized, and I wonder what compelled them to agree to their roles. Maria Bello (Prime Suspect) and the wonderful Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy from Harry Potter!) play the kickass couple posing as Nathan’s parents; Alfred Molina (An Education) plays the Joan Allen/Chris Cooper character to Lautner’s Jason Bourne; and Sigourney Weaver (Avatar) plays Nathan’s deeply weird therapist, who spouts off lines like, “I hate balloons,” and “Okie-dokie” in the most nonsensical of contexts.
Okay, but the craziest thing about the movie: At the end, Nathan gets phone calls from his actual father. You never see who he is directly, just shots of the back of his head and closeups on parts of his face. The way they were obscuring his identity, I expected the actor playing the dad would be super-famous, like a big cameo. But after piecing together his different facial features and recognizing his voice, I figured out who it was. I won’t say who, but I’ll say that he isn’t nearly famous enough to be a satisfying cameo, but he’s big enough that it’s weird that he’d take on this faceless role.
As for the most important question: Is Lautner a leading man? Maybe he’ll grow into one, but it seems the answer is “not yet,” if audience members in my screening are to be believed. Obviously, he’s physically believable as an action star — he’s really mastered the jump-kicking-bad-guys-in-the-head move — but his smoldering is a little too cute. His most vengeful moments elicited a lot of “awws,” and I think the problem is that his voice hasn’t caught up to his physique.
Still, if you’re the type of person who ironically enjoys bad movies, Abduction is prime-grade entertainment. I can’t remember having so much fun at a bad movie since seeing Swimfan in eighth grade. See it at a theater filled with other young people (I saw it at Union Square, near NYU) with a couple of your most smartass friends. Leaving the theater, I kind of felt the same way you do after a turbulent flight that lands safely. I sort of wanted to take down people’s emails. “I loved what you shouted after Lily Collins’ big line.” “Oh, you’re the one with the great laugh!”
Did you see Abduction? Were you entertained or insulted? What other bad movies did you have a great time seeing in theaters?