Rude Awakening? Please Hold.
Positive Buzzwords: Six-pack abs, young
Negative Buzzwords: Wooden, unknown quantity
The Case: After the last few windier-than-necessary assessments, I'm pleased to discuss an actor that requires very little in the way of thought or word count. In fact, this guy is only 18 years old and hasn't done all that much to deserve his lofty status or level of universal name recognition. Sure, he's an attractive chap and possesses abdominal muscles that would make the Greek gods weep. But if one removes the Twilight movies from consideration, Taylor Lautner's resumé is best summarized as one of the titular characters in a shitty Robert Rodriguez kiddie movie, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3D (where the performances mattered even less than the crappy special effects), and as one of the ensemble cast members of Valentine's Day, during which he mugged "like a brain-dead Bambi dumb enough to get caught in a fog light." Yet, Lautner has somehow managed to ensnare himself within quite a lucrative fog light, for studio heads have fallen at his feet and engaged in booking wars just to secure his post-Twilight Saga screen time. What gives?
Indeed, it's rather puzzling that this 18-year-old guy is now the highest paid teenage actor in Hollywood, since he just inked a $7.5 contract to play Stretch Armstrong, who is one of those comic book characters that only the die-hard geeks would admit to remembering. Of course, Lautner is best known as the ubiquitous Twilight Saga's Jacob Black, a teenage Quileute tribe member who functions as the (mostly) dependable best friend of Bella Swan and romantic rival of vampire Edward Cullen. Lautner is certainly functional enough in the role that requires him to pine over Bella over the course of the first three movies, but it's a very undemanding gig in terms of acting. Inarguably, Lautner has made the most of Jacob's screentime in terms of exposure, but his physicality has facilitated a false sense of security where his cringeworthy line-delivery is concerned. Hell, even during Lautner's most pivotal scene of New Moon, which ideally would have been a great opportunity to showcase emotion -- Jacob experiences a violent outburst in a movie theater lobby, admits confusion as to what is wrong, and rushes offscreen -- is portrayed as if the teen hadn't read that page of the script until just before shooting.
Still, all due props go to a guy who nearly got ditched from the Jacob role after Twilight and won back the role for New Moon by gaining thirty pounds of muscle, (presumably) waxing his chest, and practicing his wolfie faces in the bedroom mirror. However, I just don't understand why Lautner is being held out as the future of action movies. For one thing, he's never been in a real action flick, and -- for that matter -- he's never even really fought onscreen. In New Moon and Eclipse, all of his character's fight scenes are performed by Jacob's cute CGI wolf counterpart. For all Hollywood knows, Taylor Lautner might very well punch like a stereotypical girl (say, Ashley Tisdale). And, even if he was able to convincingly throw down, wouldn't Lautner be much better suited for a vacuous run as a rom-com king?
For whatever reason, Hollywood has chosen to bank upon Lautner's continued marketability and appears to value him even more than the other Twilight leads. This phenomenon shows itself despite Kristen Stewart's lengthy (albeit lip-biting filled) run in feature films and Robert Pattinson's recent display of acting chops (and ability to stretch his range) in Remember Me. So, we'll see how Mr. Teen Idol fares after his run as Jacob "Werewolf Who Imprints All Over a Baby" Black comes to an end after the Breaking Dawn twofer. Lautner shall then attempt to carry his first leading role in a creepy thriller called Abduction. Then, he'll step into Stretch Armstrong (which he chose over Max Steel), a franchise which has already capitalized upon those chiseled abs by selling a doll in Lautner's likeness. Ka-ching!
Prognosis: Film studios have assumed the financial risk for this set of six-pack abs, so they'd best take interest in his skill set (or lack thereof). But while the potential of Taylor Lautner has been vastly overrated, dude's still going to make plenty of bank in the short term to finance a pretty sweet lifestyle. It remains to be seen whether Lautner's "Team Jacob" fanbase will lose interest once they move past puberty and whether he can sell tickets even when not peeling off his shirt and wolfing out. Personally, I can't wait until he develops the inevitable desire to become a "serious actor" without the foresight to realize that his appeal is all about looks because the acting thing just ain't happening.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found losing faith in Steve Jobs at agentbedhead.com.