'Jumper' has cool concept but lacks substance


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

And 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. But 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 '90s gems like "Swingers" and "Go" to blockbusters like "The Bourne Identity" and "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," initially offers up what feels like a globe-trotting thriller for the ADD 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.

And so it's hard to care about David, 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. (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. Sounds like sour grapes, is all.

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 the "O.C." star - 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'd 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.

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

Ultimately, the movie just ends in an abrupt, unsatisfying fashion. But then again, the whole thing feels truncated - giant chunks of context are missing, as if they jumped past those during the editing process. Diane Lane shows up in a couple of scenes as the mother who abandoned David when he was 5, and their reunion is over so quickly, it's not just devoid of poignancy, it's laughable.

"Jumper" had potential, though. It's got a clever premise. And at its best, in the beginning, it almost feels like the pilot for a prime-time series you'd like to see more of. But now we're jumping ahead of ourselves.

"Jumper," a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some language and brief sexuality. Running time: 92 minutes. Two stars out of four.