Directed by Doug Liman
It can be said some of the weaker James Bond movies are nothing more than glorified travelogues. The same comment can be made of Jumper, although a glorified Scholastic Choose Your Own Adventure (minus the crafty storytelling) would be a more appropriate comparison.
Escape to Your Library
David's a Jumper, that means he can have coffee in Paris in the morning, lunch on top of the Sphinx at noon, and dine in New York City that evening. He's a pretty hip kid now that he can pop over to London at the drop of a hat, pick up a chick at a pub, then prance off to catch a wave off the coast.
Ah, but 23-year-old David (Hayden Christensen, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith) has come a long way since he was a shy, bullied 15-year-old (Max Thieriot, Nancy Drew) who was written off as dead after falling through some thin ice in a rather silly little high school incident.
As a teenager, he lived with his loser father and wondered whatever became of his mother, who left when he was only five years old. He also had something like a high school sweetheart, Millie (AnnaSophia Robb, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
During that ice episode, David magically teleported to the Ann Arbor Public Library, an incident he dubs as his first teleportation. That's in the first few minutes of the movie. By the end, this convoluted trifle, based on a short series of books by Steven Gould via C-list publishing houses, doubles back on itself and it turns out David's first teleportation was really back when he was that five-year-old kid who still had a mother.
Heck, if the writers of this gibberish can't keep things straight, what chance does an audience have?
Following the brilliantly goofy logic of a 15-year-old, David didn't want anybody to know he lived because they wouldn't believe what happened.
You're alive, so this is the perfect opportunity to run away from home, rob the Emigrant Bank in New York City, and set yourself up with a palatial loft in Manhattan, loaded up with all the loot and nick-knacks that go along with globetrotting.
Jump the Shark
It doesn't help matters that David changes actors in transitioning from 15 to 23. Granted, there are some significant formative years in there, but considering Thieriot in reality is himself pushing 20, the storytelling might have been better served if the ages were fudged and the actor stayed the same. It's a little jarring that the two actors don't really look all that much alike, yet eight years later old schoolmates still recognize David. It's not a knock against Christensen (almost 27, by the way); he still has potential as an actor and he's OK here.
Things are equally murky in shifting from 14-year-old Robb to 26-year-old Rachel Bilson (The Last Kiss) as the "older" Millie.
Considering this movie is only 90 minutes (and it's a l-o-n-g, surprisingly dull 90 minutes at that), director Doug Liman, who perfected the art of conveniently improbable storytelling with The Bourne Identity, could have done a better job working with the casting director. After all, Jumpers can skedaddle from one place to the next, but they can't shift time.
Then there's Samuel L. Jackson (also in Revenge of the Sith). Sporting a platinum hairdo as Roland, a heavy who lacks all the grooviness of Jules Winnfield and possessing not a shred of the Force, Jackson seems to be simply in this one to pay the bills. Depending on the circumstances, Roland either works for the NSA or the IRS. But what he wants, what he really, really wants, is to wipe all Jumpers off the face of the earth. He simply doesn't think a human should have god-like teleportation powers.
Thanks to another Jumper, Griffin (an overdone Jamie Bell, King Kong), a little exposition reveals that men like Roland have been hunting down Jumpers for centuries. It's an animosity that has reared its ugly head throughout history, including major events like, oh… the Inquisition.
Jump to Conclusions
After a bunch of light adventure that under more skilled hands might have created a faint semblance of the giddy, youthful super hero joy found in the first Spider-Man movie, Jumper finally settles into its ho-hum storyline. Ironically, David himself sums it all up very succinctly as a "Marvel Team-Up" between himself and Griffin: save Millie, kill Roland, and we're done.
Unfortunately, Griffin is such a cagey Limey that not much beyond that silly history spiel ever gets explained. The rules of jumping are never clearly defined. Jumpers apparently have select "jump points" around the globe. Fine, but by not explaining things, Liman opens himself up to a whole new level of convenient improbability.
It's a sad state of affairs when the mind has enough time (and space) to try to think up more interesting character back stories and arcs for the lead roles.
In the movie's first scenes, it's made clear that Millie has a thing for Italy and really wants to visit Rome some day. Well, eight years later, she gets her chance thanks to David's ill-gotten gains, and yet it turns out she doesn't know a lick of Italian (except for "ciao"). In that, Millie is such a lame girl. Come on! Give her some personality, give her something to do. Let her shine while she lives out her fantasy vacation.
But no, instead David breaks into the (closed) Colosseum and takes her inside. It allows them to have time alone with ancient history (who knows how many Jumpers were killed for sport there, after all). They're alone, that is, until Griffin shows up… and Roland. It's all so conveniently improbable.
When all the contrivances and plot holes run dry, the movie finally ends with the greatest of all its improbabilities: a sequel-teasing finale. Even with a concluding cameo by Diane Lane as David's mom, it is extremely improbable 20th Century Fox will jump at the chance to invest a single dime in another Jumper installment.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.