Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 16 News List

Attention-deficit science fiction

By Bob Strauss  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , LOS. ANGELES

Jumper is about a couple of young men who have the miraculous ability to teleport themselves and stuff anywhere in the world, instantly.

The filmmakers, however, seem to have left half of the movie back in the cutting room.

Superficial and semi-coherent, this sci-fi thriller has its rules, I guess. But only director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and writers David S. Goyer (Batman Begins), Jim Uhls (Fight Club) and Simon Kinberg (Liman's Mr. and Mrs. Smith) possibly understand them. And maybe not even them.

It's unfortunate, because while the movie tediously continues to rip Matrix-looking holes in the space/time continuum, some very nice production elements go to waste. Liman got unheard-of permission to shoot inside Rome's Colosseum. There are also trips to the top of the Empire State Building and the Sphinx, among many other exotic locations.

Additionally, Jamie Bell gives a generally fine performance as a radical, sarcastic English Jumper, and Samuel L. Jackson spouts what may have been classic Sam lines ("There are ALWAYS consequences") had they been embedded in a better script. Plus, he wears one of his nuttiest hairstyles yet: closely cropped fleecy white, offset by a salt-and-pepper goatee.

And there's a really good gag with a double-decker bus. That's essentially it in the way of cool stuff.

Problems radiate out from the central casting of Hayden Christensen as David Rice. This immovable object of an actor improbably plays a guy who, having discovered his teleporting powers as a teenager, has used them to make himself rich by robbing bank vaults without breaking into them. When he's not beaming from the sofa of his Manhattan penthouse to the refrigerator because he's too lazy to walk there, he'll spend an average day surfing in Fiji, lunching at the pyramids and picking up chicks in London bars.

Film Notes

Jumper

Directed By: Doug Liman

Starring: Hayden Christensen (David Rice), Jamie Bell (Griffin), Rachel Bilson (Millie), Diane Lane (Mary Rice), Samuel L. Jackson (Roland), Michael Rooker (William Rice)

Running Time: 92 Minutes

Taiwan Release: Now Showing


Little does he know that Jackson's Roland leads an underground group of religious fanatics called the Paladins who are dedicated to hunting down and killing Jumpers in the name of God. But David soon finds out when Roland introduces him to an electrified harpoon-stick thingy that disrupts Jumpers' teleporting mechanisms. David escapes this first attack, and while subsequent ones involving him and Bell's Griffin grow more elaborate and damaging, they share the same essential anything-can-happen quality, which drains them of excitement and suspense.

Rachel Bilson, from the Liman-produced O.C. TV series, plays David's love interest, Millie, employing speech cadences that I've never heard occur in nature. It's still a better performance than that of the monotonous Christensen.

Liman has had a pretty good run at making preposterous scenarios fly; beside Smith and the first Bourne, he directed the indie semi-gems Swingers and Go. But Jumper, taken from some young-adult novels by Steven Gould, never gets fleshed out enough. It's too busy flitting all around the screen to establish the moral and personal connections that would make the story engaging, let alone the narrative sense that would make it worth following.

And where the heck did the Jumpers and Paladins come from? We're told that their highly destructive war has been going on for centuries, but are given no explanations of why they are like they are - nor why the rest of the world appears never to have noticed.

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