Jumper

jumper

Movie review by Greg Carlson

Any person hoping that director Doug Liman would recapture some of the pulse-quickening glory of his past successes should steer clear of “Jumper,” a disappointing and empty-headed hybrid of action and science fiction with no reverence for the strongest concerns of either genre. Based on the 1992 novel of the same name by Steven Gould, Liman’s movie version changes several key incidents present in the book, and few of those alterations make any sense. It took multiple drafts and a handful of writers to concoct the screen version of “Jumper,” and every person involved seems to have forgotten to include memorable characters and a coherent narrative. The end result is a movie that wants to go everywhere, but ends up stuck in one place.

Hayden Christensen, who replaced actor Tom Sturridge following the start of production, plays David Rice, a young man who discovers that he possesses the ability to teleport anywhere in the world merely by concentrating on where he would like to be at any given moment. Like Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner of the X-Men, Rice’s power carries with it the suggestion of super-heroism, but the callow punk prefers the trappings of unearned cash and expensive toys to helping others. Rice’s materialism might have been a theme worth exploring, but “Jumper” has the attention span of a butterfly, never alighting on one idea long enough.

Instead, Rice bounces around the globe, familiarizing himself with top vacation destinations until he feels confident enough to whisk his childhood crush Millie (Rachel Bilson, as blank and nearly as bland as Christensen) off to Rome for a private tour of the Colosseum. In the meantime, another “jumper” named Griffin (Jamie Bell, whose character should have been the movie’s main protagonist) reveals himself to Rice, confirming that a group of shadowy operatives known as Paladins methodically hunt and destroy teleporters. Little reason is given for the zeal of Paladins, but white-haired leader Roland Cox (Samuel L. Jackson, shouting), who pursues Rice like Javert chases Valjean, proclaims things like “There are always consequences!” in a booming voice.

Liman has a gift for staging frantic action, and “Jumper” contains a few scenes in which the movie’s premise is fully realized. Logical or not, Griffin can teleport large objects (like double-decker buses) with him as long as they are moving, and the result is a moment or two of genuine spectacle trapped amidst the wreckage of a story about which nobody cares one iota. “Jumper” is certainly made for teenage boys, and its preoccupation with mindless fighting and chasing, as opposed to a genuine interest in the culture of the places selected as “jump sites,” is a millstone around the film’s neck.

Strangest of all is the movie’s treatment of Rice’s mother, played by Diane Lane in a virtual cameo. Unlike the novel, Mrs. Rice harbors a secret of her own, but the film leaves the mother-son relationship frustratingly unresolved, and a late scene feels utterly half-baked, as if something more substantive should follow. Instead, “Jumper” retreats into the recesses of adolescent wish fulfillment, where it is as shallow as a puddle.

This review was also published in the High Plains Reader the week of 2/18/08.

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