LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Hayden Christensen makes the transition from Skywalker to globetrotter in “Jumper,” a sci-fi thriller about a man who discovers that he has a gift for teleportation.
“Jumper” would seem to be a perfect match for Doug Liman, the man whose propulsive, hyperkinetic style has yielded a string of energetic hits, including “The Bourne Identity” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”
But for a picture steeped in wormholes and zippy trips via the space-time continuum, “Jumper” proves disappointingly inert.
All the state-of-the-art visual effects in the world can’t compensate for spotty plotting and bland characters that prevent an intriguing premise from going the distance.
Given the director’s proven track record and nifty-looking teaser trailers, the Fox release should come out of the gate running, but more discerning moviegoers might opt to look before they leap, resulting in returns that would fall short of the usual Liman mark.
Based on the young-adult sci-fi novels “Jumper” and “Reflex,” by Steven Gould, the film revolves around the transcontinental exploits of David Rice (Christensen), who inadvertently finds out about his peripatetic prowess while back in school, escaping from a potentially fatal accident.
Once he gets the hang of things, he uses his teleporting powers to buy freedom from his abusive father (Michael Rooker) by jumping into a bank vault and jumping back out again with its entire contents.
That pretty much sets him up for life, spending his young-adult days whizzing among New York, London, Paris, Cairo or wherever his whim — and a surfable high-tide — takes him.
But just as David picks up where he left off with his school crush (Rachel Bilson), he finds out that he’s not the only one with his particular talent when he runs into Griffin (Jamie Bell) while snooping around the Colosseum in Rome.
Griffin gives David a little history lesson about the centuries-old battle between the Jumpers and the Paladins, a secret organization dedicated to wiping them out courtesy of high-voltage contraptions known as tethers.
And leading the Paladin crusade is one Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), a man with snow-white hair and a strong personal moral code having to do with the Jumpers going where only God should go.
Or something like that.
It’s evident that this is a movie with “The Matrix” on its mind, but where the Wachowskis’ movies came complete with a richly developed mythology, the “Jumper” backstory is awfully muddy.
That’s surprising given a lineup of writers including David S. Goyer (“Batman Begins”), Jim Uhls (“Fight Club”) and Simon Kinberg (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”), but then again, it seems as if huge chunks of story have been teleported themselves in order for the film to conform to a noticeably rushed, scant 93-minute running time.
What remains plays out like a (pricey) cable series pilot.
More dynamic performances wouldn’t have hurt, either. Christensen brings a brooding intensity to a part that really required a charismatic energy to better complement the action, while his old “Star Wars” co-star Jackson fights a personal battle with that distracting ‘do.
Bell’s punky character allows the grown-up “Billy Elliot” star to have a little more fun than the others, especially Diane Lane, who pops in and out a couple of times as David’s long-lost mother.
On the technical end, while the film combines virtual effects with live location shooting in New York, Tokyo, Rome, London, Paris and Cairo (with interior work on Toronto soundstages), the end product somehow has all the dimension of a picture postcard — admittedly scenic but flat.
David Rice: Hayden Christensen
Griffin: Jamie Bell
Millie Harris: Rachel Bilson
Roland: Samuel L. Jackson
Mary Rice: Diane Lane
William Rice: Michael Rooker
Young Millie: AnnaSophia Robb
Young David: Max Thieriot
Director: Doug Liman; Screenwriters: David S. Goyer, Jim Uhls, Simon Kinberg; Based on the novel by: Steven Gould; Producers: Arnon Milchan, Lucas Foster, Jay Sanders, Simon Kinberg; Executive producers: Stacy Maes, Kim Winther, Vince Gerardis, Ralph M. Vicinanza; Director of photography: Barry Peterson; Production designer: Oliver Scholl; Music: John Powell; Costume designer: Magali Guidasci; Editors: Don Zimmerman, Dean Zimmerman, Saar Klein; Visual effects supervisor: Joel Hynek.