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No one that remotely follows the pulse and flow of Hollywood can doubt that Taylor Lautner is poised on the brink of stardom. After finding himself playing the wolfy Jacob Black in two Twilight movies, Lautner is poised to graduate to toplining his own solo projects. His agents have been busy cashing in on his Twilight heat by first attaching him to play Paramount's Max Steel, then losing interest in favor of Hasbro and Universal's Stretch Armstrong project.
But the big development for Team Jacob's team came last month when Shawn Christensen's action spec script Abduction saw shopped around town. Lautner was attached to the project, not only to play the movie's main character but as a producer via his Tailor Made production company. Abduction went out to studios, a bidding war emerged and in just two days a deal had been struck with Lionsgate. Rumor has it that Christensen's script sold up front for nearly one million dollars -- a staggering figure these days for the spec script market. Verve, the new talent agency that represented Christensen's script, was happy. So was Lionsgate, Tailor Made, Vertigo Entertainment and Gotham Group. No doubt the Twilight fans that follow every career move of the franchise's trinity (Pattinson, Stewart and Lautner) were also happy, too.
It turns out that I'm not as happy. Abduction is a pretty mediocre script.
Look, if you guys at Verve or Lionsgate are reading this and are about to get all pissed off at the mean internet douchebag, don't hate the player because I don't hate the game for you guys. I'm happy that you've all found a way to make a lot of money; after all it's called show business, right? You've got a film that, in all likelihood, not going to cost you a hell of a lot to make and market. You've pretty much guaranteed a strong opening weekend when Team Jacob troops show up to support their boy toy. You're going to make money from it (as long as it's made quickly.) All I'm saying is let's not fool ourselves: this is a story that doesn't tell anything new, nor does it at any time veer off from a by-the-numbers story arc. Lautner's character, this Nathan kid, is at the whim of events playing out around him and can't really do anything to change or stop it. His love interest is even below the usual stereotypical arm candy for the hero, that same kind of heroine that gets introduced as being bitchy but under that hard shell is a girl that's sweet if you just take the time to know her. The problem with this Karen chick is this: I don't really want to know her. At all. My advice, Lionsgate people: make sure you cast this part hot because there ain't anything else that can be done with her.
I don't want to get into deep spoiler territory with Christensen's script with my review but in a nutshell, Abduction is like this: Nathan is a nice enough senior in high school but he's seen as a dweeb by the cool crowd because, well, he sings Cheap Trick songs and shit like that. Both he and Karen get assigned to work on a school project about missing kids. Nathan discovers a photo of a missing three-year-old that looks like him when he was three, right now to the ketchup stained t-shirt that the kid is wearing in the last known photo (which Nathan's mom saved and is upstairs in their attic. No joke -- the stain seen in the photo is still on the shirt.) Anyway, shortly after the bad guys show up, Nathan and Karen go on the run from the cops and the villains, they get into a few fights that really aren't that exciting on the page, yadda yadda yadda, third act resolution set up for a sequel the end. By the time I hit page 70 and realized that this was all Abduction was going to amount to, getting through the remaining 40 pages felt to me like I had my own high school assignment to complete.
I will give this Shawn Christensen writer guy this, he must be smarter than me because he fills up the beginning of his script with a dumptruck load of teen culture wish fulfillment junk. This kind of stuff must have made the studio mouths salivating like a hungry fat kid standing in front of a cake store. Check this out: Christensen packs in underage drinking, fake ID, hero making eye contact with the bitchy cheerleader heroine character at a wild house party, brand drops YouTube and Wikipedia and iPod and Nathan playing Halo on his Xbox and then having Nathan hack into the backdoor of a website to get the material he needs for his school assignment -- all in the script's first 20 pages. I get it, Mr. Screenwriter, I get it! I'm too fucking old for this shit!
No, wait a minute. That was Danny Glover's thing, right? Where was I? Oh yeah, now I remember: I just hit the age of incontinence. Thank goodness for Depends.
Abduction isn't for you if you've seen The Bourne Identity. It's for the kids that were too young to see Matt Damon do shakeycam fighting back in the early 2000s but who now can go to theaters all by themselves. But as old as I am, it still pisses me off to read a script where the screenwriter has to include sound effects when the someone uses a gun or when the gun is empty. Sorry, excuse me for a minute, I have to yell at some kids to get off my front lawn.
I'd almost expect Abduction to be the kind of show that would turn up in the fall schedule of The CW Network right after The Vampire Diaries but I think that might be a little too mean to the people making Vampire Diaries. Zing! Picture a CW version of The Bourne Identity and that's pretty close to what I was left with from Abduction, less the part where I actually liked The Bourne Identity. And now that I come to think about it, I don't even have a clear understanding why the bloody script was given the title Abduction in the first place. Nathan's never abducted except for a brief time and that comes near the end of the story.
Have you seen my Polident? I need to take out my dentures and brush them before I go to sleep.
Maybe a good director and a rewrite can add some substance to Abduction before it hits theaters. Or, conversely, maybe the godlike marketing qualities of of Taylor Lautner's dimples and six-pack abs will be enough. But what happens if the director can't work some magic? What happens if the romantic chemistry between Lautner and his co-star is like week old soda pop? What happens if the trailer looks stupid?
If any of those things happen then Team Jacob might see the emperor's new clothing and that big opening weekend for Abduction will begin to shrink in possibility. I like this Lautner kid, I want to root for him and see him get bigger than that emo-Edward guy or the sulky cough-in-her-armpit what's her face chick. But if Abduction is a bust, the buzz that Taylor Lautner has built will take a major blow and begin to dissipate. Maybe Lautner's fanbase will forgive him one or even two bad career moves but if he wants long-term viability he'll need to pick better projects than this.