Jumper (20th Century Fox, PG-13)

film_jumpers_sm.jpgCan Christensen do anything except look mildly concerned and speak his lines like he’s clarifying his order at a fast food drive-up window?








Full disclosure time: Hayden Christensen is not a favorite of mine. In fact, I’m waiting for Mr. C. to atone for his acting sins in those yucky Star Wars prequels. I’ve gone on record as saying that Christensen’s "acting" in those two films was possibly the worst ever in a big-budget movie franchise. My brother swears that George Lucas is to blame, but I’m not sure. I don’t usually mock actors, but I’ve mocked some of the lines delivered by Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker on more than one occasion.

Just had to say that upfront, because the new film Jumper stars Christensen in the lead role of David Rice, a young man who discovers he has the remarkable ability to instantly teleport himself anywhere on Earth. No satisfying explanation is provided in the film for this, but we learn that "jumpers" have existed for thousands of years, and they are being hunted down and killed by unsympathetic "Paladins." Shucks, how can a guy see the global sites, woo a pretty gal pal like Millie (Rachel Bilson) and enjoy his supernatural life when badass Paladin officials like Roland (Samuel L. Jackson, wearing an unsettling white croptop) are on his case all the time? Fellow jumpers like Griffin (Jamie Bell) might hold some insights, but ol’ Grif has an attitude problem (being tracked through time and terrain will do that to you), and he regards Rice as a major nuisance. Can these two set aside their conflicts and team up to thwart Roland and his minions? Can Rice keep Millie from finding out the truth, and protect her from impending danger (which his own actions brought on)? Can Christensen do anything except look mildly concerned and speak his lines like he’s clarifying his order at a fast food drive-up window? The correct responses are "maybe," "maybe," and "doubtful."

All this isn’t to say that Jumper is devoid of entertainment value. Director Doug Liman previously helmed cool movies like The Bourne Identity, Swingers and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, so he’s no slouch behind the camera. There are plenty of kinetic action sequences, especially in the film’s second half. It’s definitely a kick to see Rice and Griffin, for example, battling across different landscapes—a crowded city street, the middle of a pool, one of the seven wonders of the world, etc. And if they’re at the wheel of a large truck at the time, so much the better (the vehicle is teleported with them; how’s that for a magic trick?).

But the script, by David S. Goyer and Jim Uhls, is consistently one-dimensional—explanations for almost every major plot development are lacking, and no one but Bell and Jackson delivers lines (weak though they may be) with any energy or style. Bilson may be a looker, but she’s stunningly bland in this role. And what the hell convinced Oscar nominee Diane Lane to take a thankless small role as Rice’s mother in this movie? It’s easily the most pointless performance she’s given in 20 years or so.

Jumper certainly has an intriguing idea at its core, and it wouldn’t be a bad DVD rental on a dull Sunday afternoon. But on the big screen, its flaws far outweigh the occasional kick of the Matrix-like action scenes. "Why don’t we skip this boring stuff?" Millie says to Rice during one of many vacuous conversations. Too bad the director and writers didn’t follow that advice, and give us a better showcase for their concept. And as for the rumored acting ability of a certain blonde actor, well, it hasn’t emerged from "Hayden" yet. | Kevin Renick

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