You know your movie is in trouble when even Eminem didn’t like the script enough to accept the lead role. Yet, Swingers and Mr. and Mrs. Smith director Doug Liman powered through, encountering more rejections and cast shakeups including Evan Rachel Wood turning down the chance to play the female lead (thankfully preferring to continue working on quality art films) until at last, Star Wars star Hayden Christensen signed on to play Jumper protagonist David Rice. Notice that I didn’t use the word hero—no, to me, being called a hero presupposes that the audience finds you heroic or at the very least, likes you enough to care about your plight. As Jumper opens, we meet our smug, arrogant lead Rice as he brags about his ability to teleport himself anywhere on Earth for coffee in Paris or securing a phone number elsewhere until he decides to bring us up to speed by flashing back to a time when he was a “chump just like you,” as he explains to the audience. Going back eight years earlier, we see fifteen year old Rice as a sensitive and thoughtful high school student, who battles a bully and later gets trapped under the mostly frozen lake in his suburban Michigan hometown, only to magically reappear soaked to the core deep in the stacks of the Ann Arbor Library. Running away from an unhappy life with his drunk, neglectful father, Rice trains himself to master the art of “jumping” from one place to another, stages a massive bank robbery without opening the door to a vault and living a life of wealth, privilege and hedonism by entertaining himself with trips to exotic locales and, when the whim strikes him, jumping over to London to pick up a random pub girl, possibly coining a new phrase "one night jump."
Needless to say, there’s not much to like about Rice who seems to represent everything commercial, calculating and cold about the twenty-something consumer male culture so we’re thankful to actually be given something in the way of a plot when anti-Jumper Roland (Samuel L. Jackson) appears on the scene. An ultra religious “Paladin,” Roland uses a machine (that’s never quite explained) to devote himself to murdering those whom he feels are blasphemous abominations. After giving the jumper Rice a run for his money in a violent and terrifying fight at Rice’s posh apartment, Rice escapes back to Michigan to look up the girl that got away, his high school crush Millie (Rachel Bilson) because as we all know, when your life is on the line, it’s always a good idea to try and jeopardize the life of someone else.
Millie, who's never met a low-cut shirt she didn't like and spends her time serving brew at a local sports bar, quickly defies all logic by making the impulsive decision to travel (yes, this time on a plane) with Rice to Rome in order for her to finally see the place of her dreams and of course for him-- who by this point is probably as into exotic locales as most of us are to playing bingo-- a chance to score. Once in Rome, audiences meet our comic relief in Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell as fellow-jumper Griffin who, reluctantly teams up with Rice to take on Roland a la the Marvel comics the two are fond of but by this point, the audiences are so tired of the headache inducing violent fights from one location to the next that we just don’t care.
Given an unsatisfying conclusion that is also never quite explained (are you sensing a pattern?), Jumper is a cautionary tale of excess run amok and will hopefully remind the otherwise immensely talented director Doug Liman to return to stories that actually entertain with offbeat characters who engage us such as the ensemble from Go rather than decorative, hyper cut eye candy of Jumper that shows off like a high school jock. In other words, skip Jumper—you’ll have more fun on a trampoline.