Nearly a year has passed since the release of Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood, and Amanda Seyfried is still crying wolf. At least that’s the opinion of the drastically one-dimensional dickhead cops in Gone, who coldly dismiss Jill’s (Seyfried) claims that her sister’s been kidnapped, chalking it up to yet more hysterics from the crazy girl who swears she, too, was abducted a year earlier. Jill doesn’t have a lick of proof, but she does have more credibility-crushing traits than a registered sex offender, including a history of mental illness, recently deceased parents, an inability to ID her supposed boogeyman, and a past stint in a psych ward that’s left her on a regular pill-popping schedule. Hell, even her allegedly missing sis (Emily Wickersham) is newly on the wagon. Thus, there are countless opportunities for Detective Powers (Daniel Sunjata) and his butchy colleague Erica (Katherine Moennig) to roll their eyes and appear both negligent and inept. (“My sister’s not with her boyfriend,” Jill assures Erica. “Didn’t you ever think she might have two boyfriends?” Erica snaps back.)
The script by Allison Burnett (who recently unleashed Underworld: Awakening) is a layer cake of easy plot propellers, iced with rib-tickling garbage like a wooded crime scene dubbed Forest Park (Twilight distributor Summit Entertainment remains a faithful source of aerial shots of pine trees). The pieces of Jill’s puzzle, which she inexplicably must race to solve by morning, stack up in a manner as endlessly implicative as bad porn innuendo, and as rudimentarily user-friendly as finger-paint-by-numbers. Every actively underlined suspect—the new cop with psycho eyes, the candy-offering mechanic, the John Doe-style tenement dweller whose workroom duct tape is scarily identical to…everyone else’s duct tape—offers another perfectly placed clue, making our poreless heroine the Robert Langdon of Proactiv spokesgirls (that Jill’s own purported ordeal was very “It puts the lotion on its skin” is merely incidental).
Seyfried does indeed look a touch silly running from point to belabored point with her goldilocks a-flowing, but let it be said that this girl is a fantastic actress, as unerring as anyone could hope for from someone tasked to spit out lines like, “I’ll sleep when he’s dead!” There isn’t an overwrought moment to which she doesn’t bring her A-game, and even a terribly-penned desperate exchange with co-star Jennifer Carpenter becomes poignant stuff in Seyfried’s hands. The question is, don’t those hands have access to better material? Either this gal is under contract to the same sadistic agent as Halle Berry, or her taste in projects is light years away from her instincts for scene execution. What Gone offers her is that oft-sought, physically involved, actress-empowerment vehicle—a tame rendition of, say, Jennifer Lopez’s Enough. Unfortunately, what it also gives her is another link in the cilice that’s fast-becoming her career. All chops considered, it’s tough to forgive her for headlining something that can’t find time to properly end its story, but can find time for a Justin Bieber joke and an it’s-just-the-cat moment. Yeah, Gone is that kind of movie.