Jumper

Movie Information

The Story: A young man with the ability to teleport himself runs afoul of a group bent on destroying anyone with such powers. The Lowdown: A preposterous, generally incoherent story made just that much worse by an unlikable lead character and a cornucopia of bad ideas.
Score:

Genre: Sci-Fi Foolishness
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson, Diane Lane
Rated: PG-13

Leaping into town is Doug Liman’s Jumper—a film so indefensibly bad that it goes beyond awfulness to become, if not good, then at least hugely entertaining in its unintended hilarity and transcendent dopiness. I honestly do not believe that it would be possible to make a list of truly bad ideas and come up with anything nearly this dumb—and I’m not just talking about casting Hayden Christensen in the lead. Granted, putting Christensen in your movie is about on par with starring a coffee table—except I believe I’ve seen coffee tables with more screen presence. (The days of blaming the George Lucas dialogue in the last two Star Wars movies for Christensen’s thespic shortcomings have long passed.) But Jumper goes way beyond this by giving us a coffee table with attitude.

Here we have Christensen as David Rice, a fellow who can “jump” through space by merely thinking about a given location, which sounds like a pretty cool thing to be able to do—even if the movie has no clue how or why he can do it. Fair enough. He learns about this ability in a near-drowning accident involving thin ice and a snow globe (no, no one says “Rosebud,” more’s the pity) whilst he is a mere dweeb of a put-upon junior-high student (played by 19-year-old Max Thieriot, Nancy Drew). Realizing the potential this affords him to get away from his abusive drunken father (Michael Rooker, Slither) and his miserable bully-bait existence at school, he jumps to New York City, where he makes himself independently wealthy by jumping into bank vaults and then jumping out again with lots of cash.

Flash forward to adulthood and David’s incarnation as Christensen. Adult David has attained complete mastery of self-absorption and ultimate laziness—along with a dodgy Marlon Brando accent that comes and goes from scene to scene. David can’t even be bothered to walk from the couch to the kitchen—he teleports. (How such a nonphysical lifestyle allows him to undertake all sorts of athletic endeavors is never explained.) He watches Hurricane Katrina victims being washed away on floating houses, but does he help? Screw that, he’s off to picnic atop the Sphinx (unwary viewers may think they’ve wandered into another recent cinematic marvel, The Bucket List, at this point). Ah, but there’s a fly in the ointment (isn’t there always?). Unbeknownst to David, a secret religious society who call themselves Paladins are out to rid the world of the “abominations” known as jumpers. It’s never clear why they’re abominations, but the script says so, therefore it must be true.

At the head of this group is Roland, and if he’s the actual Paladin of that name from Charlemagne’s time, he must be something of an abomination himself, being somewhere around 1,200 years old. Perhaps his advanced age explains the snowy white hair festooning Samuel L. Jackson in the role. Whatever the case, the white hair and the severe haircut result in Jackson looking like a cross between Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man (1993) and the old guy on the Cream of Wheat box. (I confess to having some trouble envisioning the latter going around eviscerating jumpers—even PG-13 style.) This is not a good look for Jackson, but then this whole project hardly smacks of a wise career move.

Throw in a really lackluster love interest for David in the person of old-school-days crush Millie (TV actress Rachel Bilson, who was probably cast because she’s even blander than Christensen), and add in a quirky Brit jumper, Griffin (Jamie Bell still looking for that career Billy Elliot seemed to promise him back in 2000). Finally, season with a ridiculous tangent involving David’s missing mom (Diane Lane), and stir well with tons of exotic locales and effects work, et voilà you have Jumper. Why you would want it is another question. But I can’t say I didn’t find it entertaining—for all sorts of reasons having nothing to do with the intentions of its creators. On that score—and for proving that you can’t kill Sam Jackson with a bus—the film has a certain wayward amusement value. However, since the silly thing is clearly set up for a sequel, I don’t advise encouraging the makers by buying a ticket. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some language and brief sexuality.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

8 thoughts on “Jumper

  1. Mild spoilers ahead…

    I was dragged into this stinker on Sunday. Every age group hated it except for the two eight year old boys. I can see why they liked it. There’s discussions on other boards that the main character is basically a sociopath, not really using his gift for any gain but his own. True he saves the girl, but once again, for his own gain. Basically, this is the most unpleasant “hero” that I’ve ever seen on film. I can see why others want to kill him.

    What boggles my mind is that Hayden has had some great roles: LIFE AS A HOUSE and SHATTERED GLASS come to mind. I feel that George Lucas has sucked all the talent out of him. Maybe he’s now more desirable for being able to hit his mark in front of a green screen instead of his acting chops.

    marc

  2. Ken Hanke

    While I don’t feel that Christensen was more than adequate in SHATTERED GLASS and LIFE AS A HOUSE, you really can’t blame him for the way the character is written and presented in the film, even if a more appealing performer might have made the guy seem less despicable.

    What baffles me is that the film goes out of its way to present him in a bad light. The whole business of him watching the Hurricane Katrina footage on TV does nothing else. I’m guessing that the idea was that it would illustrate what a self-centered anus he was at the beginning in order to show character growth by the end. The problem is that there isn’t any growth.

  3. Brian Postelle

    MAN I wish I had waited for Ken’s review before seeing this over the weekend. As my date said about halfway through the movie, “A year from now, I’m not going to remember anything about this movie.”

    It just never gained any momentum. Any point the action built up, it was killed by unbearably long sequences of seemingly improvised dialogue.

    I wonder if the best parts of the movie ended up on the cutting room floor? It seemed like a lot was missing.

    (Though I did get a chuckle out of the obviously cued “cheering” by the bar patrons watching some sports event.)

  4. Brian Postelle

    Oh, and there are worse things that setting up for a sequel: I left thinking this thing seemed more like a pilot for a TV series.

  5. Ken Hanke

    “I wonder if the best parts of the movie ended up on the cutting room floor? It seemed like a lot was missing.”

    You aren’t really suggesting that you’d like to see a longer version, are you?

  6. I think Hayden is the most wooden actor in Hollywood. I haven’t seen AWAKE yet, actually I will never see AWAKE, but it seems that he’s just sleepwalking through roles as of late.

    I’m sure that the Katrina footage was lost on 99% of the audience. They were probably more excited with the ability to steal money and get laid.

    marc

  7. Ken Hanke

    At least AWAKE (which gives you twice the wood for one price, since it co-stars Jessica Alba) gives him another “Nooooooooooooo!” moment, which is always good for a polite chuckle.

    I’ve no doubt that the Katrina footage is lost on a lot of the audience. For me, the real question is why it’s in there at all. Obviously, it was a conscious decision — wayward, but conscious. But what did they — they being the three writers and the director — think they were doing?

  8. jasondelaney

    I can’t believe I’m going to say this but, you asked for it buster.

    I’d argue that adding Jessica Alba will give most 3 times the wood.

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