"A guy can teleport."
That's the basic plot of Doug Liman's alternately dry and ridiculous new action thriller Jumper, and the film takes great pains to NOT introduce anything that might distract from that one paltry premise: One really uninteresting guy can teleport wherever he wants (including bank vaults, beaches, and the head of the Egyptian Sphinx) -- up until the day that a ferocious (but also ridiculous) villain shows up to ruin all the teleport-y fun. And then we get a half-decent chase, a bunch of hyper-kinetically edited action, and a sequel teaser. For a 90-minute flick that focuses on a guy who moves real quick, it sure doesn't move all that slick.
Frankly, I expect a little more creativity from Doug Liman at this point, who seems to be coasting on fumes after delivering rock-solid action flicks like The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Jumper feels like it was made with a test-screening audience in mind, and those who consider themselves fans of the source material -- a series of novels by Steven Gould -- will probably find themselves sorely disappointed in the movie version.
The screenplay (which was cobbled together by professional script surgeons Jim Uhls, David Goyer, and Simon Kinberg) feels like 11 or 12 isolated sequences that were simply lifted from Gould's books, regardless of how well they actually mesh together into one cohesive movie. Once the heavy-handed voice-over narration subsides ... just give up. The movie stabs wildly at a small collection of plot points, finds none to its liking, and then just keeps on chugging towards the end credits. Yes, this one rather unlikable guy, who spends his days stealing money and bounding across the planet, is our hero. In a movie that's actually interested in its characters, we could definitely go somewhere with this guy. In a quick-fix and entirely disposable action flick like this one, he remains rather unlikable for the whole movie. So as we deal with disapproving parents, nefarious villains, endless (faceless) henchmen, and a bunch of flashy-yet-hollow action bits, we're left pondering WHY we should even care.
As the gratingly pedestrian story unfolds, our sorta-hero must tangle with a fellow "jumper" (Jamie Bell) who doesn't like company, an army of "paladin" henchmen who wield these silver electrical jump-ropes, and more absent-minded plot-holes than any finished film should have. Even at its best moments (when Liman cuts loose with a multi-location chase, for example) the movie feels like a collection of skimpy ideas and missed opportunities. Even at 90-some minutes, the flick begins to feel like a chore, saddled as it is with an editorial approach set firmly on "Play Act One, and then just hit random."
Lead "jumper" Hayden Christensen, apparently in no real hurry to convince his detractors that he's actually a good actor, delivers an action-flick leading man who's about as engaging and appealing as a car wash attendant. Love interest Rachel Bilson certainly knows how to scrunch her face into very cute expressions, but she delivers lines like they're printed just off-camera on giant neon cue cards. Watching Raych and Hayden throw puppy-eyes at each other is kinda sweet and all ... for about 1.3 seconds. This is supposed to be an action flick, after all. And really, guys, make up your mind: If you're shooting for a 90-minute action film, jettison all that tiresome character development (that you do nothing with, anyway) and just get to the meat of the matter.
You'd expect that, at the very least, Samuel L. Jackson as a villain would add some sort of flavor, color or intensity to the proceedings, but all the actor really contributes is his typical bombast -- and several looks at one egregiously silly wig. (Sam's head looks like the easter bunny!) Michael Rooker and Diane Lane bounce around the periphery, mainly in aimless sequences that tell me that the Jumper DVD will have one hell of a large "deleted scenes" bin.
Slick-looking and stylishly shot, but hollow to the core and (ugh) actually really dull when there's not some action on the screen, Jumper is a (hopefully) rare misfire from one of Hollywood's more consistent popcorn-flick-makers. It's got just enough charm, story, and action to fill a half-decent trailer -- and the trailer doesn't set you back nine bucks.