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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


My movie-loving friends and I have a private little game we play: whenever a film is really bad, we change the title to include the word ďcrapĒ in it. So The Seeker: The Dark is Rising becomes The Seeker: The Crap is Rising and I Know Who Killed Me becomes I Know Who Crapped Me, and so on. (Yes, I know itís juvenile, but itís also a defense mechanism against flicks that waste our time.) By the rules of this game, the new movie Jumper would become Crapper, and thatís totally appropriate because in the crapper is precisely where this film belongs.

Okay, that sounds really harsh. I assure you, though, that my nastiness and crudeness are only the product of extreme frustration. This is one of those pictures where you wonder if anyone involved in its making even bothered to watch the thing before they released it. So many crucial elements are missing that you can only assume they are trying to insult our intelligence by releasing it in the first place.

Hayden Christensen stars as David Rice, a young man with a gift for teleportation (i.e. a ďjumperĒ). As a teen, he figures out that he can teleport himself into a bank vault to steal money without getting caught. Never needing to actually work, David spends his days lunching atop the pyramids in Egypt and hitting on women in foreign bars. One day, he runs into Millie Harris (Rachel Bilson), his junior high girlfriend. They havenít seen each other since the day eight years earlier when Millie thought David had died. Amazingly, upon encountering him again, she doesnít bother to ask the logical questions like, What happened to you? or How did you survive? Instead, she agrees to spontaneously join him on a trip to Rome.

It is here that David discovers the ďPaladinsĒ - a group devoted to hunting down and killing jumpers. The Paladins are led by the merciless Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), who finally catches up to David. The jumper is quick to escape Rolandís clutches; after all, he can simply jump away when his pursuer approaches. One way to get David to stand still is for Roland to go after Millie. Itís a big mistake to mess with a jumperís girlfriend, though. David prepares for attack, with the aide of another jumper named Griffin (Jamie Bell).

Iíll be the first to admit that Jumper has a cool premise. And at first, the film seems like itís going to exploit that premise in fun ways. The whole idea of David robbing banks is clever, as is the way he takes revenge on a childhood bully. Thereís also an interesting fight between David and Roland in which they spontaneously hop from country to country while tussling. Thatís all that is cool about the movie, though. All the jumping around actually becomes kind of boring after a while, and at times itís a little disorienting as well.

But letís forget about all that, because those flaws are not what makes Jumper so insanely bad. I was appalled by how sloppy and disjointed the story is. A whole lot of necessary information is never given to the audience. For example, you never learn how the jumpers have gained their skill. Even David himself doesnít question it; he merely accepts that he can teleport without ever wondering where his power came from. And, by the same token, what is the point of jumping? Is it just a random ability, or is it a skill that comes with some particular responsibility? We never know.

More egregiously, we are never clued in as to why the Paladins have spent centuries hunting down jumpers. Thereís a vague reference to them believing that such powers ďshould only belong to God,Ē but thatís it. Because we have no context for the age-old battle between the two groups, there is absolutely no suspense whatsoever. Rolandís attempts to hunt down David are neither exciting nor compelling because we have no idea why theyíre even enemies in the first place. With a running time of just 88 minutes, there was plenty of room to develop the concept and give us some much-needed back story.

I canít believe that director Doug Liman (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity) and his team allowed the picture to go out in this state. It feels like Jumper might have been longer at one point, then had everything but the action scenes removed. What plays on the screen is therefore an empty, hollow shell of a film that keeps you at armís length.

Watching Jumper, I just wanted to jump to the end of the movie so that the disaster would be over.

( 1/2 out of four)

Jumper is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some language and brief sexuality. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.

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