Only the most dim-witted TV viewer will have struggled to grasp the concept of Ashley Judd's new ABC series, Missing, which premieres Thursday night, says Alan Sepinwall at HitFix. In each of the network's many promos, Judd barks out the same line: "I am a mother looking for her son!" (Watch a trailer below.) Of course, she's not just any mother: Judd plays a retired CIA agent who undertakes a globe-trotting crusade to recover her kidnapped son. The plot, critics point out, both blatantly rips off the hit Liam Neeson film Taken, and evokes the middling thrillers that Judd headlined "shortly before and after the turn of the century." The show's reliance on melodramatic cliches makes Missing seem "like a bad Lifetime movie blown into a weekly series," says Rob Owen at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Is there any reason to subject yourself to its machinations?
Not at all: The show is so formulaic that it forfeits suspense, says Robert Bianco at USA Today. Any marginally well-versed cinephile "will have seen all the movies it cribs from," so no matter how fast Judd hoofs it through Europe, "most of the time you'll still be ahead of her." Like any hackneyed thriller, Missing indulges wildly in implausibility. Wouldn't a mom whom we're told has "basically spent the last 10 years in the PTA" be a bit rustier getting back into the spy game? Barely five minutes pass before Judd starts offing bad guys, hacking security cameras, and embarking on high-speed motorcycle chases. It's all too silly.
"Ashley Judd's Missing is all scenery, no suspense"
Judd barely saves it: Missing is so self-serious that it devolves into self-parody, says Mike Hale at The New York Times. At times, the "sheer preposterousness" is laugh-out-loud funny. Case in point: Judd doing "violent battle in her full-cotton-sweater soccer-mom outfit" — executing roundhouse kicks and fleeing down dark alleys while wearing "comically tall wedge sandals." The show's saving grace is Judd's "buttoned-down but oddly moving performance." It might just be good enough to pull viewers through "10 episodes of formulaic mayhem."
"Don't rile the spy who came out of the flower shop"
It's actually quite fun: To savor Missing, viewers must suspend their disbelief, "put it in a rocket and send it to Jupiter," says Lori Rackl at The Chicago Sun-Times. But once credibility is taken out of the equation, the show is actually a kick to watch. The plentiful action sequences are well-done and set against a "beautiful backdrop": Judd's tense and hectic search for her son conveniently takes her past classic European landmarks — both the Eiffel Tower and the Trevi Fountain make early cameos.
"It's hard to buy Ashley Judd as a head-butting uber-mom on Missing"