The movie “Jumper” is 88 minutes on a pogo stick, hopping from teenage cliche to teenage cliche. You like the story about the high school nerd who pines for the class beauty and is tormented by her bully boyfriend? You’re in luck. Or do you like the one about the perpetual victim who suddenly discovers that he has his own super powers and is better than everyone else? Then this is your movie. How about the cliche of a teenager trapped in an unloving home with a gruff and unsympathetic father, suddenly liberated from all parental dependence — and isn’t that heartless old dad sorry now? Here’s another one that should sound familiar to you: “what would you do if you had the power to walk into banks, stores, or women’s lives and simply take anything you want?” Every angst-filled teenage fantasy is covered in this movie for just about as long as it takes a pogo stick to touch down. Then we’re off to the next one: the sadder but wiser beauty who realizes how foolish she was to let the nerd go, years before. A group of evil authoritarian figures who don’t believe that kids should be having fun with their super powers (the cornered hero’s plaintive wail, “but I didn’t do anything wrong!” will resonate with every teenager ever caught painting the cat or dismantling the lawnmower).
The virtues of this movie, slender though they may be, are really peripatetic virtues. You get a rapid-fire tour of exotic locations around the world, as jumpers race from the Egyptian Desert to downtown Tokyo to London to Rome. You jump from fight to fight, from character to character. With this pace, the fun and clever moments never last too long, but then again, you never have to confront the lack of depth or substance either. Just as you are beginning to think, “say… this acting is pretty superficial…” WHOOOOSH you are sitting on top of the Sphinx in Egypt, and isn’t it a lovely view?
There are lots of other cliches of teenage wish fulfillment– archetypal stories about mothers and friends– but I don’t want to give away too much of the feather-light plot. Suffice it to say that that no adolescent wish-list item is left unrecognized. The problem is that it is never long enough or interesting enough to be satisfying. This movie is paced for an audience that grew up multi-tasking and its aesthetic sensibility and depth of story-telling is equivalent to a beer commercial. Even at under 90 minutes, too much money has been stuffed into too little script. At one point, a character says that jumping enables you to skip the boring parts. If that were true, he would have jumped out of this movie.
Nor will you find much satisfaction in the acting by stars Hayden Christensen or Rachel Bilson, in the useless role of love interest/damsel in distress, who keeps asking Christensen’s character to tell her what is going on as he is dodging assassins. Samuel L. Jackson, wearing a hairpiece that resembles a Krispy Kreme powdered sugar donut, turns in a calamitous performance as a hit man for the authoritarian “paladins” who for centuries have lived only to squelch the fun of “jumpers,” because only God should have that power. He uses something between an electric lasso and a “don’t tase me, bro” cattle prod to subdue them and it does not seem to occur to him that God might not approve of murder. Christensen, Jackson, Bilson, and
Billy Elliot‘s Jamie Bell all seem to be in different movies, and none of them are worth watching.
Parents should know that this film includes a lot of “action violence” (not much blood) and peril. A character is gutted and other characters injured and killed. There are non-explicit sexual situations, drinking, and smoking, and characters use some strong language.
Families who see this movie should talk about whether the ending was a surprise. If you had the power to be a jumper, what would you do?
Families who enjoy this film will enjoy Clockstoppers and the X-Men movies.