DVD Release Date:  June 10, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  February 14, 2008
Rating:  PG-13 (for sequences of intense action violence, some language and brief sexuality)
Genre:  Science Fiction, Action/Adventure
Run Time:  88 min.
Director:  Doug Liman
Actors:  Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Bell, Diane Lane, Michael Rooker, AnnaSophia Robb, Max Thieriot

Audiences who pay for a ticket to see Jumper are likely to send a message to the people behind the film:  Go take a flying leap.

Ill-conceived and incoherent, Jumper is a premise without a sufficiently interesting story to support it. It introduces the idea of personal teleportation but never gives us any reason to care about its protagonist. His powers serve little more than wish fulfillment—romantic conquest, instant riches—until a broader cosmic conflict is revealed.

Hayden Christensen (Star Wars: Episode II-Attack of the Clones, Shattered Glass) stars as David, who as a young boy falls through the ice and, while trying to resurface, discovers he has the power to transport himself instantly to other locations. His entrances into other places are messy, but onlookers don't seem interested in asking the newly arrived David about anything beyond his general welfare.

David's childhood is characterized by a mother (Diane Lane) who abandoned the family and a beer-drinking dad (Michael Rooker) given to angry outbursts. When David discovers a way to escape, he takes full advantage of it. (Looking at a picture of his mother , he says, "If she could run away, so could I.")

Infected with his newfound power, David turns to robbing banks. He intends to pay the banks back—he even leaves notes to that effect-but in the meantime, he has places to go, traveling the world via teleportation. Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) dwells on shots of David standing casually in a clock tower high above the city, sitting atop the Sphinx and reposing upon a butte—none of which instill the sense of awe that the careening, swooping camera indicates that the audience should be feeling. Instead, the majesty of these moments is more on a par with the CGI shots in the lachrymose The Bucket List.

With no human companion for his tiresome escapades, David tracks down Millie (Rachel Bilson), who hasn't seen him since his accident on the ice as a child. He tells her he's a banker—"just fell into it," he says—and she's soon agreeing to travel with him to Rome, after they agree to "skip all the boring parts." Viewers will be wishing the same thing about the film they're watching.

In Rome, another jumper (Jamie Bell) teams with David in an effort to avoid being captured by Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), part of a line of jumper-hunters referred to as paladins. Yet even he is poorly drawn, motivated by a vague form of religious fervor that takes offense at manifestation of supernatural power by beings other than the Almighty. "You are an abomination," Roland tells a jumper. "Only God should have the power to be all places at all times." Of course, teleportation, while supernatural, is not the same thing as omnipresence. David can be at one place one moment, then another place the next moment. This is not "all places at all times," but the filmmakers aren't interested in theological correctness.

We're told that this cosmic conflict between jumpers and paladins is ages old, but the film focuses only on Roland's team and the two jumpers, plus a briefly seen third jumper who is killed by Roland.

Despite an intriguing premise, Jumper is surprisingly inert. The film presents no moral lessons beyond the mistaken idea that teleportation equates to omnipresence and omnipotence. Its romance is perfunctory, and Christensen and Bilson do little more than stare longingly at each other. Jackson and Bell are the only standout screen presences, with Jackson's trademark glare and Bell's quips keeping the film from completely bottoming out at several points. Too bad, then, that both Jackson's and Bell's characters are as underdeveloped as the lead performers.

Jumper could have been the start of an entertaining franchise had it registered a pulse and shown some promise in terms of its story. Unable to clear even lowest of plot thresholds, however, it deserves to make a quick trip through theaters and materialize on video shelves imminently.

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@earthlink.net.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  Lord's name taken in vain; some profanity; a character extends his middle finger.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Drinking by numerous characters in several scenes.
  • Sex/Nudity:  David leaves a bar with a girl he meets there and is shown shirtless beside a bed after they've had sex; David and Millie kiss and take off each other's shirts and pants before jumping into bed in their underwear; man slaps a woman's bottom.
  • Violence:  David teleports himself directly into a tree; jumpers are hunted, beaten, subdued and stabbed to death; bar brawl; David threatens to drop a man off Mt. Everest; a flame-thrower is aimed and shot at various people.
  • Crime:  David uses his powers to rob banks.
  • Religion:   who believes him to exhibit powers reserved for God. These hunters are said to be "religious nut jobs."