Physicists and drama coaches might find it instructive to compare notes and solve a lingering sci-fi mystery. To wit, what is it about the ability to defy quantum theories of space, time and matter that turns some guys into Tobey Maguire (i.e. sweet, humane, huggable) and others into Keanu Reeves (stolid, robotic, dishwater-dull)?
Hayden Christensen tilts toward the Reeves alternative in "Jumper," grunting and lumbering about as a young man who discovers he has the ability to instantly reconstitute himself in another place (or, in publicity release-speak: "zap through wormholes in space-time fabric").
For those of us who couldn't crawl our way through a space-time wormhole, it's hard to gauge exactly how we might capitalize on such a talent. Christensen's David Rice goes the living large route. He zaps his way into a bank vault, zaps himself into a luxury New York apartment (mortgage-free, one presumes), then zaps his way around the great tourist destinations of Earth.
Based on two young adult novels by Steven Gould, "Jumper" is the latest wrinkle in the sub-Matrixing (read: dumbing down) of science-fiction movies. It presumes, with misguided cynicism, that Rice's oafish choices reflect the smoldering fantasies of any average guy who might wish to jump himself out of an unforgiving, single-parent household in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Such is the plight of Rice, whose mother ( Diane Lane) mysteriously abandoned him at the age of 5, leaving him to defend himself against an abusive father and the omnipresent school bully. Once David stumbles upon his teleporting powers and is able to harness them, it's not long before he's picnicking atop the Sphinx and picking up sultry young women in posh London clubs.
You can leave your hometown demons behind, but there are party poopers everywhere. Wherever David goes, he is trailed by a representative of the ruthless, moralizing Paladins (a snow-headed Samuel L. Jackson) bent on wiping out irresponsible jumpers, and an English-born jumper ( Jamie Bell), who is determined to save David from himself.
Is he worth it? I wasn't convinced. As brought to sullen life by Christensen, David is arrogant, amoral and has really banal taste in girlfriends (Rachel Bilson, enjoying her 15 minutes of babe-ness). "I'm standing on top of the world," he brags to the audience from the peak of a great pyramid, adding, "Once I was a normal person, a chump, just like you."
Not even a director with the pedigree of Doug Liman (of "Swingers" and "Bourne Identity" glory) can make us understand why we would want to follow such a smug cretin on his journey. Awash in cloddish dialogue, "Jumper" devolves into a generic, fire-and-bang clash between evil (Jackson) and the lesser-of-evils (Christensen). By this time, anyone with half a brain should have already teleported himself to the parking lot.