I'll say this much for "Jumper" – it's got a great premise. Or at least the beginnings of a premise. It's about a young man, David Rice (Hayden Christensen), who has the ability to instantly teleport himself anywhere in the world he can imagine. Believe me, many is the time I have wished for this gift while enduring a bad movie.
I didn't exactly want to be teleported out of the theater where I saw "Jumper," but only because it kept threatening to become interesting. Based on a young adult novel by Steven Gould and directed by Doug Liman ("Mr. And Mrs. Smith"), it can't quite make up its mind whether to be a boy's book fantasy or a roiling psychological drama with neat special effects. Liman and his screenwriters don't want to be accused of making just another CGI spectacular, but the seriousness that they offer up seems misplaced. David is self-absorbed without having much of a self to absorb.
Raised by a belligerent father (Michael Rooker) after his mother (Diane Lane) left him at age 5, David discovers in high school that he has the ability to zip anywhere he pleases. (It's a nice touch that his first official act is robbing a bank.) Pretty soon he's living in a New York penthouse – one of those cold, soulless aeries that filmmakers haul out whenever they want to instruct us that money isn't everything. An average day for David is lunch atop the Sphinx in Egypt, dinner in Paris, dessert in Tokyo. Imagine the time this guy saves avoiding airport security.
But all is not well in Jumperville. It turns out Jumpers are a very rare breed who have been hunted from the beginnings of time by the Paladins, a secret society dedicated to their elimination. Samuel L. Jackson plays Roland, the head Paladin, and you couldn't ask for much more in the way of molten stares. With his carefully sheared hair dyed lamb's-wool white, Jackson cuts an imposing figure. He and Christensen acted together in the "Star Wars" series and that film, along with "The Matrix" is halfheartedly referenced here.
Actually, the true scene stealer is Jamie Bell, best known for "Billy Elliott," who plays the rebel Jumper, Griffin, whose parents were killed by Roland. Griffin is such a herky-jerky punk that it makes sense he's never in one place for long. He's ravaged by his gifts. David, meanwhile, never seems terribly put out by the whole thing, even when he's contorting himself through worm holes in the space fabric while also trying to explain all this to his moony main squeeze (Rachel Bilson).
"Jumper" has so many loose ends that it almost cries out for a sequel. This, of course, is intentional. I would say the filmmakers are being a tad optimistic. Grade: C+
• Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some language, and brief sexuality.