Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson, Diane Lane
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.