The twilight of Lautner’s career?

Abduction is a fitting title for this project created for soon-to-be-unemployed Twilight werewolf Taylor Lautner. Somebody made off with the plot and replaced it with a laughably predictable PG baby spy drama riddled with flat dialogue and aimed squarely at teen girls and their wallets.

Hunky and brooding

Hunky and brooding

Abduction Half a star (out of 4)Rated: PG

Abduction is a fitting title for this project created for soon-to-be-unemployed Twilight werewolf Taylor Lautner. Somebody made off with the plot and replaced it with a laughably predictable PG baby spy drama riddled with flat dialogue and aimed squarely at teen girls and their wallets.

With the vampire screen series winding down, what’s a buff 19-year-old whose onscreen experience is limited to playing werewolf Jacob Black to do?

Hollywood, seeing dollar signs flashing among the faithful (Lautner’s father, Dan, is among the producers), came up with a spy flick scrubbed of sex and blood to expand Lautner’s reach beyond Twilight among his target audience and hopefully rebrand him as a new action hero with this Bourne Identity-Spy Kids ripoff.

The cast is larded with some fine actors, perhaps in order to help prop up Lautner’s less skilled thespian chops — Maria Bello, Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina and Michael Nyqvist. But they only make Lautner and his equally wooden co-star, bushy-browed Lily Collins (daughter of Phil), look very bad indeed.

Shawn Christensen’s confusing story follows high school jock Nathan (Lautner) who likes to party, occasionally spars with his dad on the lawn and sees a shrink (a disappointingly flat Weaver) for anger-management issues.

A class project leads Nathan to discover his photo on a missing kids’ website with the help of neighbour, classmate and occasional crush Karen (Collins).

Soon, his world has dramatically collapsed and Nathan and Karen are on the run from shadowy bad guys who want him dead, although they don’t know why.

In between, there’s time for Nathan to take off his shirt, do some impressive stunts, get chased a lot and engage in some chaste kissing, all while avoiding the CIA agent (Molina) and the black ops bad guy (Nyqvist).

Director John Singleton (Oscar nominee for Boyz N The Hood) is too devoted to letting the camera linger on the emotionally unresponsive Lautner, who uses the same brooding look to convey misery, fear, anger and perhaps intestinal gas.

Meanwhile, the story — such as it is — suffers from a complete lack of onscreen chemistry between the two teen leads, including a scene where Karen is more concerned with squashing Nathan’s stones for not calling her after a Grade 8 makeout session than trying to evade the bad guy on their tail.

I kept wishing the evil spy dudes would just get them so we could all go home.

The sad truth made very clear in Abduction is that if acting skills were dynamite, the morose, heavy-browed Lautner would struggle to blow his nose.

This may change as he matures and adds some more challenging work to his resumé, but Abduction isn’t going to help with that task.

Linda Barnard is a syndicated movie critic for the Toronto Star.

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