On the Aisle, by Tony Macklin

More than a month and a half into 2008, there hasn’t been a single memorable movie released nationally. I can’t remember a more lacklustre start to a year.

Cloverfield and Rambo had big openings, because they had effective ads. Unfortunately, an effective ad doesn’t make an effective movie. They tanked.

Another film that joined Cloverfield and Rambo at the top of the box office earnings for its first week was Jumper. But then it too under-whelmed. But at least Jumper is an entertaining popcorn movie. It’s only 88 minutes — less than an hour and a half — and it has three writers, which suggests it is skimpy. And skimpy it is.

Jumper is a popcorn movie, but without salt or butter. Too many of the kernels remain unpopped. It’s like the Saturday matinees of yore. But by the time you’ve crossed the lobby after seeing Jumper, you’ve forgotten it.

Please bear with me, because I’ve forgotten most of Jumper. I think it’s about a boy named David (Hayden Christensen) who finds out he is a Jumper — able to teleport himself through walls and logic into other places and faraway countries. In high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan…oops, I’ve forgotten this part. Do not blame me for forgetting scenes; the writers and director have too.

After high school, David teleports himself all over the world. But a Jumper has lethal enemies called Paladins. The Chief Paladin is Roland played by Samuel L. Jackson, who has a less salty vocabulary than usual. To compensate for his lack of cursing, Jackson sports an obscene white hairstyle.

David returns to Ann Arbor to reconnect with a former classmate Millie (Rachel Bilson). The Paladins are on his trail. He teleports Millie to the destination of her dreams, the Colosseum in Rome, with the Paladins in lukewarm pursuit.

The travelogue aspect of the movie is impressive. The Colosseum is especially evocative. See, I remember that.

In his travels David comes across another Jumper named Griffin (Jamie Bell), who has battled the Paladins for years. Unfortunately, Bell, who was the title character in the charming Billy Elliott, has jumped from ballet to ballast. He’s more hopping gargoyle than graceful balletomane.

Jumper is credited to three screenwriters: David Goyer, Jim Uhls and Simon Kinberg who adapted the book by Steven Gould. At the end of Jumper the writers seem to have decided a convincing climax wasn’t necessary, because a sequel obviously beckoned.

Perhaps the fourth writer, who was assigned the last part of the film, didn’t show up. He may have been allergic to popcorn. At any rate, the ending of Jumper is too perfunctory to matter.

Hayden Christensen, who plays David, portrayed the Anakin Skywalker who became Darth Vader in Star Wars. Christensen was credible and showed talent as the fraudulent writer in Shattered Glass. But in Jumper he just looks baffled.

“This thing that just happened; it could set me free,” says David. If you want to be set free from logic and coherence.

Rachel Bilson of TV’s The O.C. and Chuck, is appealing as the winsome Millie. Diane Lane is wasted as David’s mother. Samuel L. Jackson cashed his check.

Doug Liman, who directed Jumper, should know better. He directed the first Bourne with Mark Damon, The Bourne Identity, and also Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Somewhere Liman became smitten with special effects. It’s depressing to see a director become superficial.

In Jumper, villainous Roland says, “Some things you can’t jump, David.” He should have said this to director Liman, who tries to jump plot and character.

Jumper is slick, but it’s silly and all over the place. Jumper leaps into the kitchen sink.

Categories: Entertainment