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A Forgettable Freak Show

Jumper is a mess of hasty exposition and arbitrary plot twists, slapped together in a superhero movie that lacks any sense of wonder. It was inspired -- if that is the word -- by Steven Gould’s popular science-fiction novel about a teenager who escapes his abusive father by teleporting around the globe, engaging in petty mischief and robbing his way into a Manhattan penthouse. It is an ability that Doug Liman’s film never really explains, though it must have made for an exotic shoot.

Liman, who jumpstarted his career with Swingers and realized his longtime dream of adapting The Bourne Identity for the screen, has long made movies that reflect his directorial style -- haphazard, chaotic and frenetically fast-paced. Jumper is all those things, but it hardly achieves the visual style or narrative competence he displayed in those earlier projects. As a travelogue, it makes a compelling case for Rome, Egypt and Tokyo as vacation destinations. As a story, it is stillborn.

If you really could teleport, that would be amazing, wouldn’t it? Try telling that to David Rice (Hayden Christensen), the high-school misfit turned globetrotting playboy who discovers his ability to circumvent the space-time continuum after a rough day in the schoolyard. David takes the revelation in stride and packs his bags -- it’s off to New York for a crash course in bank robbing and art collecting. One might expect him to be shocked at the realization of such a life-changing development, but David is a portrait of preternatural calm -- an odd choice, but one that neatly summarizes Christensen’s performance, which could generously be described as minimalist.

The shock begins to register when Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), a voluble sort with a close-cropped bright white dye job, arrives on David’s doorstep with his arsenal of expensive-looking weaponry. Roland is the religious-minded leader of a clan dedicated to exterminating all Jumpers. David wisely decides it’s time to relocate.

From there, the story careens through a series of increasingly unlikely twists. David reunites with his high-school crush (Rachel Bilson) for a romantic jaunt to the Roman Colosseum. He forms a tenuous alliance with Griffin (Jamie Bell), a fellow Jumper who claims to have spent the past decade tracking David’s every move. (Why?) And then there’s Roland, who dedicates a seemingly limitless stream of resources to the hunt, despite his lack of a day job.

Jumper seems to have been crafted as a prequel of sorts -- it is the first film in a proposed trilogy about the ongoing war between the Jumpers and their sworn rivals, whose motivations are about as murky as everyone else’s. Characters are introduced and quickly forgotten, each as disposable as the last. Perhaps it’s no wonder Christensen, Bilson and Jackson seem to sleepwalk through their underwritten roles. They’re bored. So are we.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars