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Dustin Putman

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Jumper  (2008)
1 Stars
Directed by Doug Liman
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Lane, Michael Rooker, Max Thieriot, AnnaSophia Robb, Jesse James, Teddy Dunn, Tom Hulce, Kristen Stewart, Barbara Garrick
2008 – 88 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, some language and brief sexuality).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, February 14, 2008.
If Doug Liman's name wasn't credited for being the director of "Jumper," one would never be able to guess that the stylish filmmaker responsible for 1999's "Go," 2002's "The Bourne Identity" and 2005's "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" had anything to do with it. This is junky, rote sci-fi hooey that just so happens to have a good-sized budget, the majority of its money shots, it should be added, already seen in the spoiler-filled theatrical trailers and television ads. Liman, with the assistance of screenwriters David S. Goyer (2007's "The Invisible"), Jim Uhls (1999's "Fight Club") and Simon Kinberg (2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand"), shamelessly wastes the film's promising cornerstone conceit involving teleportation by never adequately exploring it. Instead, he concocts a lame-brained, flat-footed story that drags his paperweight characters from one exotic location to the next.

David Rice (Max Thieriot) is fifteen years old when he discovers an otherworldly power he never knew he had—the ability to travel from place to place, anywhere in the world, in the span of a nanosecond. With a mother (Diane Lane) who abandoned him ten years earlier and a confrontational father (Michael Rooker) who treats him like dirt, David leaves behind would-be sweetheart Millie (AnnaSophia Robb) and travels to New York City. Having racked up more dough than he knows what to do with by teleporting himself into bank vaults and stealing the cash, a now-23-year-old David (Hayden Christensen) is a wealthy man who returns to his hometown of Ann Arbor to reconnect with a matured Millie (Rachel Bilson). No sooner have they begun to reconnect and start a relationship does David suddenly find himself—and fellow "Jumper" Griffin (Jamie Bell)—hunted down by an organization of Paladins. Led by the white-haired Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), their mission is to wipe out all of the world's teleporters, whom they believe are in defiance of God.

Where does the ability to "jump" come from? What is its purpose to those who can do it? What are the rules and the restraints that come with it? How come some teleportations cause crumbling blasts in the ground, while other times they cause but a fleeting gust of wind? Where do the Paladins originate from? And what, pray tell, is Samuel L. Jackson (2007's "1408") doing here other than sleepwalking through one of the thinnest and most thankless lead roles in recent memory? Anyone expecting answers to these questions will not find them in "Jumper." At a scant 88 minutes (including credits), the movie comes and goes without a moment's thought into delving into any of its pressing mysteries.

Instead, viewers can expect to receive a pleasant-looking travelogue that takes the characters to the Colisseum in Rome (the best scene, by the way), the pyramids of Egypt, downtown Tokyo, and a handful of other international settings. Their guide on this trip is David, a protagonist with few redeeming qualities who becomes a thief as a teenager, makes a boatload of money, and not once grows a conscience about his misuse of power and the criminal acts he commits. David may not deserve death, as the Paladins believe, but he does warrant an arrest and hefty prison time. He certainly doesn't deserve the winsome Millie, nor does he redeem himself enough for the viewer to care about his welfare as Roland and his henchmen close in.

Hayden Christensen (2007's "Awake") is led adrift by a script that fails to give his character of David a discernible arc. He isn't charming or charismatic, but he does accurately imitate the emotional range of firewood. As the more rebellious, freewheeling Griffin, Jamie Bell (2005's "King Kong") has little to do and holds even less of a purpose. As Millie, Rachel Bilson (2006's "The Last Kiss") is unable to grow into anything more than a standard-issue love interest. As David's estranged parents, Michael Rooker (2006's "Slither") shows glimmers of regret in the knowledge that he has driven his son away from him—a subplot that is dropped with zero closure—and Diane Lane (2008's "Untraceable") bizarrely pops up for a few brief scenes and just looks out of place. The best performances, it turns out, are given by Max Thieriot (2007's "The Astronaut Farmer") and AnnaSophia Robb (2007's "Bridge to Terabithia"), whose scenes as the young versions of David and Millie are disappointingly over and done with by the ten-minute mark.

With no one to root for, no adequate story development, and action scenes that are the epitome of underwhelming, "Jumper" is a lost cause. Had director Doug Liman opened his mind and let a little imagination into the mix, perhaps he would have had the building blocks for something special. By not treating the mystical act of teleportation with seriousness or depth, the film is a clothesline narrative with only one goal in sight—get in and out in under ninety minutes, quality of characters and writing be damned. "Jumper" is just plain sloppy.
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman