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LORI RACKL: It’s hard to buy Ashley Judd as a head-butting uber-mom on ‘Missing’

Ashley Judd is good actress but “Missing” it’s difficult buy inher head-butting building-shimmying uber-mom search her sEurope.

Ashley Judd is a good actress, but in “Missing,” it’s difficult to buy into her head-butting, building-shimmying uber-mom in search of her son in Europe.

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‘MISSING’ ★★1/2

7 to 8 p.m. Thursdays on WLS-Channel 7

Updated: April 15, 2012 8:04AM

When Becca Winstone’s only child wants to spend the summer studying abroad in Italy, the over-protective mama bear isn’t sold on the idea.

Becca’s (Ashley Judd) paranoia is understandable. Last time Michael was in Europe a decade ago, he was an 8-year-old who watched his CIA father’s car explode.

But her son (Nick Eversman) is a big boy now, and he wants to study architecture in Rome. So Becca reluctantly sends him on his way, along with a pamphlet on STDs provided by Becca’s friend, because we all know how loose those Eurotrash girls are.

Herpes turns out to be the least of Michael’s problems. Before you can say spaghetti carbonara, Michael goes missing in this ABC thriller by the same name. And Becca’s hopping a plane to Europe to piece together the clues and track down her kidnapped son. What follows is a poor man’s “Bourne Identity”-type chase across the continent, with plenty of explosions and fight scenes along the way.

Don’t let Becca’s mommy hairdo and cardigan sweater fool you. Turns out she used to work for the CIA, too. This is why we’re supposed to believe that she can hack into computer systems, shimmy up the side of buildings and fluently speak a multitude of languages, even though she’s spent the last 10 years running a flower shop and going to PTA and Boy Scout meetings.

I’m all for suspending my disbelief, but “Missing” wants me to take my disbelief, put it in a rocket and send it to Jupiter. Judd is a talented actress, but I just can’t buy this Muay Thai momster who goes around head-butting trained killers. She plows through Europe as though she never left, as old associates, enemies and an ex-flame (Adriano Giannini, “Ocean’s Twelve”) resurface along the way.

At least “Missing” has the decency to set Becca’s unlikely exploits against a beautiful backdrop. The show was shot entirely in Europe, and at times you half expect to see Rick Steves in the distance, thumbing through a guidebook.

Along with shots of classic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Trevi Fountain come some classic stereotypes, such as the French snob. “Not all things French are better,” says one of the show’s more intriguing characters, CIA honcho Dax Miller (Cliff Curtis, “Trauma”), whose tough exterior belies a compassionate core.

“No, just the ones that matter,” retorts the obligatory smug, French bad guy.

Another problem I had with “Missing” is the sanctity with which it regards parenthood. People who haven’t procreated are portrayed almost like second-class citizens, less good at loving — and less deserving of life — than the almighty parent.

When Agent Miller isn’t keen on Becca tearing apart Europe in search of her son, she says, “You’ve just told me everything I need to know about you: You don’t have children.”

While the show has its share of faults, the action — as implausible as it might be — moves along at a fast pace.

The acting is solid, the scenery is appealing and Becca’s quest to find her son provides a fair bit of dramatic tension. But what’s really missing is credibility.

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