Abandon (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This film took a beating from everyone.

The studio tried to sneak it into a tweener period where it wouldn't face any competition for its key demographic, a ploy similar to the strategy that worked for Daredevil. They opened it hopefully, in 2300 theaters in October, but it could reach no higher than 7th place for the week, beaten out by some films in fewer theaters. Given lackluster reviews and poor word-of-mouth, it sank to about two million worth of box office receipts in its second weekend, although still playing on approximately the same number of screens. Its gross fell below the receipts of films it had beaten the previous week. On 2347 screens, it fell several notches beneath Punch-Drunk Love, which was on only 481 screens, and which Abandon had out-grossed the previous week.

While audiences were Abandoning it, critics were knocking it down with Abandon. The reviews at RT are 85% negative. Almost every reviewer scored it in the same range as Berardinelli and Ebert, between 1.5 and 2.5 out of four, or the equivalent on their own scale. The voters at IMDB were no more enthusiastic, scoring it in the accursed 4's. The exit interviews were similarly bad. People aged 21 and older scored it with nearly straight F's. People under 21, Katie Holmes's hard-core fans, and the target demographic, scored it only C-.

So it stinks, right?

I didn't think it was so bad. Mind you, I'm not telling you that it can be compared to Rear Window in the genre of thriller/psychodrama, but I watched it through without the fast forward. I guess part of this was my own density. Most critics complained that the surprise ending was completely obvious. Silly me, I didn't really figure it out until I was supposed to, and then I enjoyed the cynical sequence of events that transpired after the secret was revealed. In the meantime, I thought that the film maintained a spooky atmosphere, which was effective because "normal" people like Katie Holmes and Benjamin Bratt anchored the story in reality.

Katie plays a smart college student whose boyfriend disappeared two years earlier. Bratt plays the cop investigating the re-opened case. Zoe Deschanel provides comic relief in the official Eve Arden role as Holmes's wisecracking classmate. I liked all three of those characters. Bratt always seems to be just about to the final exit on the highway to stardom. Why does he never arrive? Possibly, he's out there walking on the shoulder, trying to refill his gas can.

Why do people hate this movie so much?


None. Katie Holmes appears in a bra and underpants.

  • I found the character of the missing boyfriend to be a complete irritation, arrogant, pretentious, condescending - a complete and unredeemed asshole in every conceivable way. Every second he was on the screen, even in Katie's treasured memories, was pure torture. She was supposed to be a genius finance major who was hired immediately out of college by McKinsey's consulting group. So she can tell Shell where to build refineries, but she can't see that this guy is a schmuck? Love must be even blinder than people say, especially since Katie had approximately every guy in the world in love with her, including professors, McKinsey guys, her psychologist, and the investigating cop. Out of everyone pursuing her, she chose the biggest douchebag, some guy doing a permanent impersonation of Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison. I really think this film might have done better if they had rewritten that character, making him more interesting, more likeable, and less visible. His complete detestability seemed to permeate the film in a way, because he was the only character with a high level of energy on screen. Although Holmes and Bratt are the stars, they are actually background types. Bratt is handsome, soft-spoken, and very "nice". Holmes is beautiful, baby-faced, and speaks with a soft childish lisp. They are the types of actors that stand around and look good, observing the colorful characters, while acting sympathetic. Those types don't drive a picture very well, and the tendency of those two to fade into the woodwork allows the charismatic-but-nasty boyfriend to dominate the film far more than a minor character should have.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Commentary by writer/director Stephen Gaghan

  • The Making of Abandon

  • Deleted and extended scenes with commentary

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

  • I suppose the other thing that turned people off was the fact that the two "nice" characters either turned out to be not nice at all or met a very ugly fate.
  • As noted by several critics, the director used too many nested flashbacks, and also made some small editing mistakes, particularly a flash-forward that came out of left field and clumsily revealed some key information about a red herring, perhaps a little too early in the plot.
  • The cinematography sometimes got lost in arty colored lighting effects, even the highly dreaded "strobe" effect. There were times when this worked to reinforce the spooky atmosphere, but most of the time it just seemed gimmicky

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: two stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 1.5/4, Entertainment Weekly B. Entertainment Weekly's review was an exception. 85% of reviewers came in between one and a half and two and a half stars.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 4.7/10, Yahoo voters 2.8/5
  • Box Office Mojo. A real bomb. It opened on 2300 screens for two weeks, The first week it did only five million (opening in seventh place), and it dropped to half of that the second week. It was made for $25 million, and cost $18 million to market, so don't expect Katie Holmes and Benjamin Bratt to open any more pictures soon.
  • Exit interviews: Cinema Score. Honestly, it had no appeal except to the hard core Katie Holmes demographic. Even there is was not strong. People under 21 scored it a C-, but otherwise it garnered almost straight F's. I must be the only old fart who thought it wasn't that bad.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. It isn't a great genre film, and many critics hated it and found it obvious, but I found it watchable thanks to interesting performers like Ben Bratt and Zoe Deschanel. I can't muster any enthusiasm for a recommendation, but I can't see any reason to pan it strongly, either. One tip - if you want to see it, do NOT watch the trailer first. It contains a "spoiler" from the last minute or two of the film - something that you are not supposed to know at all.

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