'Jumper' is not anchored by any concepts that bring coherence

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Let's say you're a young, good-looking guy with strong cheekbones, puppy-dog eyes and pillowy, kissable lips. Hayden Christensen, for instance.

Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson find themselves in a perilous situation in Jumper.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson find themselves in a perilous situation in Jumper.

Let's say you have this amazingly cool ability to jump anywhere in the world at any time, just by thinking of the place you want to go. You can ride the waves in Fiji, have a picnic atop the Sphinx or pop into London to pick up a random blonde for a one-night stand, then teleport yourself back to your sleek, spacious Manhattan apartment.

You don't have to worry about working because your income comes from robbing banks.

You can't tell anyone about this talent, so you have to experience all these adventures by yourself. You have no friends so you couldn't confide in anyone anyway.

Wouldn't you feel lonely? Guilty? Conflicted? Something?

Not in Jumper , which is all concept and zero substance.

Director Doug Liman, who has made a huge leap of his own from small 1990s gems such as Swingers and Go to blockbusters such as The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith , initially offers up what feels like a globe-trotting thriller for the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder generation. (The script, from David S. Goyer, Jim Uhls and Simon Kinberg, is based on a pair of young-adult, sci-fi novels from Steven Gould.)

Shot on location in cities including Rome and Tokyo, it's all fun and sexy until you start wondering: Who is this David Rice guy, and how can he do this? He has a complicated superhero skill -- even comes from the obligatory unhappy childhood -- but he's too shallow and purposeless to be considered a true hero.

It's hard to care about David, then, and harder still to feel engaged once he's hunted by an underground group of "paladins" trying to rid the world of "jumpers," led by Samuel L. Jackson's Roland. (Mr. Jackson mails it in with some standard threats and that impatient, menacing look in his eyes we've come to expect.) Why they're so worked up over the jumpers' teleporting abilities is unclear -- something about how only God should be everywhere all the time.

David heads back to his hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich., to hide and looks up his childhood crush, Millie, played by AnnaSophia Robb as a girl and Rachel Bilson as an adult. The camera loves Ms. Bilson -- she's perky and likable and insanely telegenic -- but the script leaves her twisting in the wind. Millie is understandably suspicious of David's propensity for throwing money around when he whisks her away for a first-class trip to Rome (in a plane, how quaint). But once it's clear that he's defying the laws of time and space -- which includes sucking her entire apartment into a hole -- it never occurs to her to ask, um, how did you do that?

David himself only begins to understand what he's doing with the help of a fellow jumper, played with no-nonsense humor by Jamie Bell, and some of their shared antics are vaguely entertaining.

Special effects alone aren't enough, and the climactic showdown between Mr. Christensen and Mr. Jackson -- Anakin Skywalker vs. Mace Windu, for all you Star Wars geeks -- feels ridiculously overblown.

'JUMPER'

MPAA RATING: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some language and brief sexuality


RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes


THE VERDICT: ** out of ****

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