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Cool concept can’t save ‘Jumper’

POSTED: March 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.
/Twentieth Century Fox

Hayden Christensen, left, is arrogant David Rice who uses his "place jumping" ability to try and save girlfriend Millie, Rachel Bilson.

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During these traditionally "down months" of late winter/early spring, when Hollywood dumps its undercooked clams into theaters, it’s a genuine thrill to discover a hidden pearl.

I’ll let you know when I find one.

"Jumper" is based on a nifty science fiction concept and helmed by a director/producer on a years-long hot streak. The concept doesn’t pay off and the streak is over.

One day while scrapping with a high school bully, David Rice (Hayden Christensen) discovers he is able to "jump" instantly from one place to another. He views this newfound ability as a means to escape his life — his mother left when he was 5, his father is an abusive alcoholic and he apparently can’t seal the deal with his high school sweetheart, Millie (Rachel Bilson).

Things are fine until a man named Roland (Samuel L. Jackson with silver hair) shows up and tries to kill David. Turns out Roland is a paladin, and the paladins’ raison-d’etre is to kill jumpers.

David teams up with fellow jumper Griffin (Jamie Bell) to fight back against the paladins and save Millie, who of course is placed in distress.

Apparently, jumpers and paladins have been duking it out this way for centuries. Why? Good question. At the risk of spoiling the ending, this part of the concept is never explained. Neither do we ever learn why there are jumpers or paladins in the first place.

This is also clearly supposed to be chapter one in a series of films. That is not only a disappointing way to end a film, but it’s just a tad pretentious, too.

After directing "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and "The Bourne Identity," and producing the whole Bourne series, Doug Liman can probably get a green light for two or three films at a time. That’s swell for him, but the audience for this film deserves more of a payoff.

With the exception of Bell and Jackson, the acting is terrible.

Bilson, who is apparently on some television show, might be the worst actress ever to make the leap from small to big screen.

Christensen is a talented actor (don’t listen to the "Star Wars" fanatics who blame him for the bad prequels — instead watch "Shattered Glass"), but he doesn’t have the warmest on-screen presence. His character, David, is immature and arrogant and uses his extraordinary gift to stockpile expensive toys and to satisfy every desire that pops into his head. That combination of character and actor doesn’t exactly win us over.

The most compelling part of David’s character is his longing to know the mother (Diane Lane), who abandoned him when he was 5.

Lane continues to age impressively, but she is on screen for less than three minutes, leaving that part of the story undeveloped.

The concept does produce a few neat-o action sequences. Because of David’s and Griffin’s jumping abilities, the fight scenes jump frenetically from one part of the world to another. So a character can begin a punch in Detroit and land that punch in Egypt. That’s all good and fun, but it isn’t worth the price of admission.

I wanted more explanation of the concept, more action and more Diane Lane (for story purposes, of course).

With "Michael Clayton," "American Gangster," "In the Valley of Elah," "Lust, Caution," "Rendition," and "Margot at the Wedding" all released on DVD, I highly recommend a quiet night at home rather than trekking out to see "Jumper."

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.



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