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Saturday, January 31, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 34.0° F  Overcast
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Jumper: Going nowhere fast
Hayden Christensen teleports aimlessly in Jumper
Christensen is a jet-setter with no need for a jet.
Christensen is a jet-setter with no need for a jet.

Hayden Christensen racks up the frequent-flier miles in Jumper, Doug Liman's sci-fi thriller about a guy who can teleport himself anywhere at any time. But the movie itself never quite leaves the ground, though not for lack of trying. On the contrary, it seems sweaty with anxiety, as if it's in a big hurry to get somewhere. Part of the pleasure of movies like Jumper is watching the guy develop his powers - Clark Kent sprinting through the corn fields of Kansas, Peter Parker plastering his bedroom walls with cobwebs. Christensen's David, a moody teenager with an abusive father at home and a bully after him at school, doesn't have time for that. Before you know it, he's an international playboy - breakfast in New York, lunch in London, then off to Fiji for some surfing, everything funded by the banks he slips in and out of without a trace.

You can see what the movie's getting at: life as a long, lonely night of channel-surfing. And those of you who have to take public transportation will be glad to know that David doesn't appear to be having very much fun. Or maybe that's just the way Christensen, who still seems like a young Darth Vader, plays him. The Invisible Man, you may recall, had a grand old time, playing practical jokes on people and showing up places unannounced. David basically acquires stuff and travels - the good life, Ugly American-style. Then Samuel L. Jackson shows up with a device the Ghostbusters could have used; never mind how it works. A religious fanatic, Jackson's Roland hunts down and kills teleporters. "Only God should have the power to be all places at all times," he says. That seems reasonable, but of course David isn't in all places at all times, he's in successive places at successive times. That's how well the script's thought out.

Based on Steven Gould's young-adult novels, Jumper should have been about our desire to flee a bad situation. But none of the themes have been developed. With the teleportal fuzz on his trail, David returns to Ann Arbor and renews his courtship with an old high school crush (Rachel Bilson) who allows him to take her to Rome - by plane, since he's afraid to tell her about the whole space-time-continuum thing. And Jamie Bell, a little scruffier than when he was doing grand jetés in Billy Elliot, gives the movie a bit of a lift as a fellow teleporter who knows how strong the forces arranged against them actually are. What's weird is that you can't quite tell which side to pull for. David isn't much of a hero or an antihero. He's just a hedonist - a jet-setter without any need for the jet. Why should this guy get, on top of everything else, our sympathy?

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