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Home / Articles / Entertainment / Screen /  Acting skills gone missing
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Thursday, September 29,2011

Acting skills gone missing

By Roger Moore

Twilight alumnus Taylor Lautner makes his debut as a leading man in a film tailor-made for him. Abduction puts Lautner in motion and never goes wrong as long as he remains in motion.

The buff teen werewolf of Twilight plays a young man who has his world upended and finds himself on the run when enemy agents attack his home and the people he knew as his parents aren’t who they say they are. In the opening minutes, we meet Nathan (Lautner), a studly wrestler in high school, constantly tested by his strict and martial dad (Jason Isaacs), nurtured by his more understanding mom (Maria Bello).

If only they knew how he surfed on the hood of a pal’s pickup truck, how he gets blotto at teen beer busts. Dad finds out and punishes the kid with mixed martial arts training. No wonder the kid’s in therapy.

But a class project with his elusive, unavailable neighbor (Lily Collins) sends them to a missing-children website. That’s where they find a photo of toddler Nathan, reported as missing. And in asking about that, the teens trigger an explosion of revelations about Nathan’s past and a desperate escape that sends boy and girl on the lam, with no idea of who is after them or whom they can trust.

Nathan fights and struggles to outsmart the folks chasing him: Michael Nyqvist of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Alfred Molina. And Lautner, who came of age in the Twilight films, struggles to make his acting as effortless as his fights. As Nathan, he asks his mom, “Are you my mother?” Compare his stone-faced asking of the question with Bello’s rich, warm, alarmed way of playing the reaction: “You don’t understand, baby. It’s complicated.”

Director John Singleton is more concerned with the fights and chases than the human interplay between his two attractive young leads. Collins, the future Snow White, manages moments of pathos: “Are we going to die, Nathan?” Lautner remains impassive. But the script and Singleton see to it that Molina’s performance delivers a light touch, and the younger players never let us lose the sense that we’re dealing with young people who don’t know how to process all this information that’s been thrown at them. Lautner seems in over his head because that’s the way Nathan should react.

With its violence, underage drinking, reckless behavior and profanity, Abduction falls in the same corner of the youth market as the Twilight movies. Some moments and many lines feel cribbed from that series.

And with a plot that most adults will stay a step or two ahead of, Abduction isn’t going to challenge anybody who has seen more than one on-the-lam picture.

But Lautner doesn’t embarrass himself. He may not play the tender moments like an old pro, but then again, neither have Arnold, Sly or Jason Statham.

—MCT, Tribune Media Service Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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