Friday, February 15, 2008

Jumper? I Hardly Know Her!

I will NEVER get tired of that joke!

Jumper (d. Doug Liman)

You've got to love a movie that calls you a chump in its first minute. Doug Liman's Jumper doesn't bother to do much over its ensuing 89 minutes to make you believe otherwise. Give the movie credit for knowing its audience.

Ostensibly the tale of one David Rice who discovers one day that he can teleport -- "jump" -- anywhere on earth, the movie comes across more as a demo reel for the latest in digital editing equipment. The hardware is impressive. The story is less so.

Once David twigs out his abilities, he crosses the path of other Jumpers, as well as the "Paladins," a secret society of some vague sort or other that hunts down Jumpers because the film's script told them to. The Paladins are led by the mysterious Roland, played by Samuel L. Jackson, whose greatest mystery is his bizarre ivory-white hair. Maybe those snakes on that plane scared him more than he let on.

Jumper has no clue what kind of movie it wants to be. It starts off seeming like it will be a fairly serious attempt to explore what this gift would be like in the real world when David immediately uses his power for self gratification by robbing a bank vault without opening the door, but it quickly backs off of that, lest Our Hero come off as unlikable. He robs banks, but it's okay because he leaves little I.O.U's. What a guy.

And speaking of unlikable, David is played by the fourth best Darth Vader ever, Hayden Christensen (I rank him just ahead of Jake "Yippee" Lloyd and Stewie from "Family Guy"). Christensen broods and thrusts his cheekbones at the camera in something vaguely resembling a performance.

Meanwhile, Samuel L. Jackson hunts for him and says menacing things. We all know Samuel L. Jackson is a good actor because he was so good in .... Well, gosh, it has been awhile, hasn't it? Um. Kill Bill? Eh, he was barely in that. Frozone in The Incredibles? Good voice work, but not a full film performance. Jackson clearly has a love for genre material like this, but after Snakes on a Plane, and The Man, and xXx, and Shaft, and the Star Wars prequels, and xXx: State of the Union, and so on, maybe it's time for a sharp comedy or a love story.

Towards the end of Jumper, there's a hint of what could have been: Christensen, Jackson and rogue Jumper Jamie Bell (yes, Billy Elliot himself) do battle in a confrontation that crosses continents in the blink of an eye. Had the whole movie been filled with outlandish action like that, I would have felt like a lot less of a chump.

1 1/2 stars

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