Believe me when I tell you that Jumper is the worst movie I’ve seen in years.
The film begins at a Michigan high school. There we meet David and Millie, played by Max Thieriot and AnnaSophia Robb. (I’ve seen AnnaSophia in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Bridge to Terabithia, which I Netflixed accidentally when I was trying to Netflix Tuck Everlasting with Alexis Bledel but got confused because both films are based on books I read growing up. I’d forgotten how the book ended, and cried for about two hours when AnnaSophia died. I really rather like her.) David’s mom abandoned him when he was five; Millie dreams of world travel. David has a crush on Millie, and she’s very kind to him and not totally unreceptive to his halting advances, but her asshole boyfriend Mark is always getting in David’s way.
One day David makes an amazing discovery: he has the power to teleport himself anywhere in the world so long as it’s a place he’s seen either in person or in a photograph. So David skips town, manages to catch a glimpse of a bank vault, teleports himself there in the middle of the night, and never works a day in his life. Fast forward a few years and David, now played by Hayden Christensen, is living in a posh apartment with walls covered in photos of places he likes to go. He doesn’t have to work; he doesn’t even have to reach for the remote. He has all the money he needs, he goes wherever he pleases (and the places he pleases are oh-so-clichéd: cut to David eating a picnic lunch alone atop the head of the Sphinx of Giza), and he isn’t above using his teleportation powers to move to the other side of the couch.
David’s life of crime and “jumping” is a lonely one until Roland, played by Samuel L. Jackson, turns up in David’s apartment. Roland knows all about David’s powers, bank robberies, and resulting sloth and is NOT pleased. Roland doesn’t seem to have any magical powers of his own, but he does have a bunch of weird electrical equipment that he uses to chase, disarm, and capture people like David—he’s sort of like the Ghostbuster of the teleportation community.
After his encounter with Roland, David realizes he needs a new place to crash, and since Roland has seen all the photographs in David’s apartment and therefore knows all the places to which David frequently jumps, David has to go somewhere he never goes: home to Michigan. Turns out Millie, now played by Rachel Bilson, is still there. In fact, she’s now a loser townie bartender and she’s still dating her asshole high school boyfriend Mark. David goes to the bar to find her and finds himself in a fistfight with Mark—just like old times. David cleverly teleports himself and Mark to the bank vault, ditches Mark there (Mark is locked in and will inevitably be discovered and charged with David’s robberies), and then returns to Millie at the bar in Michigan. The whole thing is ridiculous. First of all, David isn’t even careful about teleporting in public places; he just disappears from the alley behind the bar and then reappears there a minute later. And he never phones ahead to find out if it’s a good time to jump somewhere; he doesn’t ever check to see if there’s a night watchman patrolling the bank or any sort of Sphinx restoration taking place. And secondly, wow. For people who are supposedly boyfriend-girlfriend in real life (or gay guy-beard, depending on your source of celebrity gossip), Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson have no chemistry at all. Max Thieriot and AnnaSophia Robb, teenagers, have better chemistry and bigger acting chops. I’m beginning to think that Rachel Bilson can only play one character: Rachel Bilson. Anyway. David, seeing that Millie’s childhood dreams of world travel have yet to come true, invites her to Rome, and even though she hasn’t seen this guy in years, she agrees. In order to keep his little secret from her, David even deigns to fly. “Can you believe we were in Michigan ten hours ago?” Millie asks him upon their arrival in Rome. Ha.
While on their Roman holiday, Millie becomes suspicious of David’s endless supply of money and constant disappearances and reappearances. Back in the states, Roland poses as a federal agent and questions Mark, who has been arrested. Once Roland hears about Millie, he uses her name and flight information to track down David. He also, of course, realizes that he’ll be able to use her as bait. When David notices that Roland is closing in on him, he decides he can afford to spend a few minutes doing something completely nonsensical: he jumps to the jail where Mark is being held and yells at him for spilling his guts to Roland. Because, you know, when you leave someone locked in a bank vault to be your fall guy, you expect a little loyalty.
Anyway. Back in Rome, David befriends Billy Elliot, who apparently gave up on ballet after discovering his own teleportation powers, and learns that there are lots of jumpers out there, as well as lots of Rolands, who are called paladins, and who are sworn to kill jumpers because they fear that jumpers will use their powers for evil, which is of course exactly what David has been doing. Nonetheless, it’s clear that we’re supposed to view the paladins as the bad guys and believe that it is their cult that has been responsible for inquisitions and witch hunts throughout the ages. So David and Billy Elliot team up to defeat Roland and rescue the kidnapped Millie.
Somewhere in all of this, David’s mom, played by Diane Lane, shows up to warn him that the paladins are coming and then promptly disappears. Now the audience assumes that David’s mom must also be a jumper, that his power to jump is an inherited trait, and that his mom is an integral part of the jumper-paladin war, which must be why she had to abandon him when he was five, but how nice that she’s still keeping an eye out for him.
Anyway, David and Billy Elliot defeat Roland and rescue Millie, and David and Millie live happily ever after.
And then we experience the worst twist ending of all time: David tracks down his mother and goes to her home. There we learn that his mother is NOT a jumper, but is in fact a paladin and abandoned David at five because that’s when he first exhibited signs of being a jumper. What? This is ridiculous. First of all, this means that the power to jump is not inherited, but rather occurs randomly, and so we are now asked to believe an incredible coincidence: that a paladin mother just so happened to give birth to a jumper baby. Secondly, being a jumper is like being double-jointed: it’s not something you choose to be or can change about yourself. But it seems to me that being a paladin is like being a Presbyterian or a republican: sure, you may have been brought up that way, but you can cancel your subscription at any time. So we’re expected to believe that Diane Lane decided to abandon her family rather than simply end her membership to the cult that would have her kill her own son. What was she thinking? Gee, it would sure be a shame to let all this weird electrical equipment go to waste?
Oh man. Jumper is the sort of film that makes me wish the screenwriters would go back on strike. Whoever is responsible for this storyline should be shot.