Funny that a film about moving fast should go slow, but Jumper is a boring, bland and nasty piece of work filled with sudden eruptions into impersonal and incoherent action sequences.
All the more shocking from Doug Liman, a director who cut his teeth on Swingers and Go before mostly sure-footed slam-bang action flicks The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The sci-fi slog of Jumper is the sort of for-hire hack work usually left to Brett Ratner, and its sole scrap of originality is that the bad men drive white, not black, SUVs.
David (Hayden Christensen) is part of a group of guys with genetic anomalies allowing them to instantaneously “jump” anywhere in the world. Restrictions are few. Gal pal or a gun — if you can hold it, you can jump with it. And there are no resulting nosebleeds or aneurysms, only pursuit by Paladins. They’re religious fanatics obsessed with wiping out Jumpers. Why? “Because only God should have this power,” as leader Roland Cox (Samuel L. Jackson) grimly intones ad nauseum.
Fitting that David jumps several times into the stacks of a public library, destroying its books the way this movie does Steven Gould’s acclaimed young-adult novel. On-location shooting looks great and co-star Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) gives Ratso Rizzo gusto to Griffin, a roguish Jumper. But David travels farther in 88 nanoseconds than “Jumper” does in 88 long minutes.
Before a moderately high-energy finale spanning Egypt, London, Chechnya and, uh, Ann Arbor, we see David learn of his ability, disappear from a verbally abusive single-dad household and rob banks to finance independent wealth into his 20s. David’s so lazy he’ll jump couch cushions just to grab his universal remote, but now that Roland’s on his trail, his jumps will get a lot more hectic.
In white hair, Jackson looks as if he’s shorn a sheep and glued its wool to his head. If only he’d mimicked just Dennis Rodman’s hairstyle and not the power forward’s wooden acting. Jackson’s resume is littered with junk made joyful by his presence alone, but even he seems disinterested.
David escapes an attack where Roland busts up his pad with an electrically charged boom stick and hightails it back to his hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich. Once everyone magically recognizes him after eight years, David reunites with boyhood crush Millie (Rachel Bilson).
It doesn’t take long for David to convince this Michigan barmaid to join him in a Roman holiday on the run from Roland. Too bad Roland’s magic stick isn’t there to force electricity into Christensen and Bilson, for whom even yanking off pants for passionate sex seems pedestrian.
Christensen is the new Ryan Phillippe — no compliment unless you enjoy annoyingly blah detachment. And Bilson is a damsel of whom you hope distress gets the better — anything to shut her droning, dull yap. (For what it’s worth, neither was a first choice for their roles.) Eventually, David teams with Griffin, waging his own lone-wolf war against the Paladins, to take down Roland.
As Jumpers zip through wormholes, so does the script through plot holes; one’s explained away with the lines “I didn’t expect that. I didn’t know.” And while it seems to start out as a metaphor for today’s youth crushing the establishment, the only thing that’s crushed here is a sense of adventure. A nifty closing action sequence recalls the slipping-memory scenes of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and it makes one wonder if Charlie Kaufman should’ve given this script a polish.
Jumper feebly concludes with an idea (and cameo from a slumming actress) copped from, and done better on, Heroes. It’s also fueled by the presumption this sludge will spawn a franchise. Perhaps it will. It just would have been nice for Jumper to zip straight to DVD, where it belongs.