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A Jumper jumps. That’s simple enough. Paladins are regular people who want to kill Jumpers… which is also simple enough, as long as you don’t want to know why, because I can’t tell you. I never manage to get around to reading the novels these movies are based on, it seems, and usually I suspect that’s for the best. This time, though, I have the feeling that if I had read the book, I wouldn’t still be sitting here wondering exactly what all that jumping was really about.
The main character, David Rice, is played by Hayden Christensen, so right there you know you’re in trouble. He still can’t act, but at least he’s finally figured out that he needs roles where all he has to do is look good and not react or emote much. He’s pretty good at that sort of brooding look, and that’s all that’s required in a lot of the scenes here, so the casting isn’t quite as disastrous as it seems. I did occasionally feel sorry for Rachel Bilson as girlfriend Millie, who spends most of her scenes looking at him a little pleadingly, hoping for some sort of feedback on what she’s saying, just so she knows he’s listening.
At 15, David nearly drowns, and in his panic to get out of the water, lands himself in the Ann Arbor Public Library. Strangely, he doesn’t seem to get in any trouble for drenching half the fiction section, and after a bit more experimenting, he decides to go on the run. His mother (Diane Lane, of Untraceable fame, though fortunately for her she has only a tiny little part here) ran off ten years ago, and his father has been stern and distant ever since. So in his teenage angst, he packs up some clothes and some money and heads for New York. The big city being so expensive, though, his cash doesn’t last long, and he has to find other resources. But when all you need to do is once to have seen a particular place to be able to go back there in the blink of an eye, robbing a bank is pretty simple. The next thing you know, he’s literally wallowing in money, in his closet-sized room in a fleabag motel.
Soon he has a fancy apartment, filled with gadgets and toys. It’s sort of like in Big, where the suddenly grown-up Tom Hanks jams his house with all the latest stuff. David hasn’t needed to grow up, so he hasn’t — the toys have just gotten bigger and more expensive. He surfs in Fiji, picks up girls in London, and has a drink on the top of the Sphinx’s head, and never gets jet lag. Then Samuel L. Jackson shows up, and with him the beginning of the end of David’s sweet life.
|Maybe it’s the hair, but somehow Samuel just isn’t his usual scary self…|
For some reason Samuel has perfectly snow-white hair, which is pretty distracting, but does make him conveniently easy to recognize and describe. He’s apparently the leader of the Paladins, and moonlights on the side for the NSA, CIA, and even the IRS. Whoever these Paladins are supposed to be, they apparently have unlimited funds, endless supplies of fake IDs, and can smack around anyone whose looks they don’t like.
This brings us to the only explanation I could come up with for why the Paladins want to kill the Jumpers — they’re jealous because the Jumpers get to have unlimited funds and push people around, too. One Jumper, Griffin, has started his own one-man crusade to try and stop them, but if he knows why the Paladins started all this, he isn’t telling. All he says on the matter is that they’re fanatics — or maybe phonetics; his English accent sounds a little strained at times. But they are fanatical; at least Samuel as Roland is. We don’t really get to see any other Paladins in action, but he keeps insisting that the Jumpers are abominations.
And so, unfortunately, is the film. Two and a quarter idols is the best I can do, and half an idol is just for the cinematography. It’s a huge, chaotic mess of exotic places and strange sights — fun, dizzying, and almost completely plotless. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fascinating to see an apartment in Michigan catch on fire because of some kid wielding a flamethrower in the middle of the Sahara; and the scenery is gorgeous. The music is good, too, but as a friend of mine once said, if you’re noticing that much, then you would have been better off to stay at home and just buy the soundtrack. So that’s my best suggestion here. It’s about time someone organized a boycott of Hayden Christensen movies anyway… or at least to organize some money for acting lessons.
Fool’s gold, n. A brassy yellow mineral that can be mistaken for gold. Also, a romantic comedy that can be mistaken for an adventure flick if you squint a little.
As the opening credits inform us, in 1714, a Spanish treasure fleet, on its way east from the New World laden with gold and gems, was sunk in a terrible hurricane somewhere in the Caribbean. That far, the movie’s got it right, but you can find out more about the real shipwreck here, if you’re curious. The film, because it wants to be a romantic comedy, adds the romantic angle of the treasure being the Queen’s Dowry, sent for by Philip V of Spain at absolutely the worst time of year to sail, because he was so anxious to consummate his marriage with his intended bride. In fact, though some of it was probably rich gifts for his second wife, who he married that year, most of the gold was meant for the depleted Spanish treasury. Kings so rarely seem to know how to budget.
The film also claims that the treasure has been lost ever since, in spite of the best efforts of many fortune hunters. That isn’t quite true, either, but hey, Matthew McConaughey is the hero here, so he gets to be the one to find it after nearly three centuries. He plays the roguish Ben Finnegan, who’s been obsessed with one particular ship from the fleet, the Aurelia, for years. He shares this obsession with his soon-to-be ex-wife Tess (Kate Hudson), who is obviously the brains of their partnership, even if she did let her libido get the best of her when she married Finn in the first place. But he’s the hero, even if he does seem to be some sort of lightning rod for trouble. I lost track of how many times he was smacked in the face, by everything from fists to canes to cricket bats, though at least he didn’t have the misfortune to be whacked in a particularly sensitive spot with a shovel. Yikes.
Tess conveniently reads faded, scribbled 18th century Spanish just as easily as if it was English, and she has a theory about where the ship might be. But she just wants to divorce Finn and go back to school, except you know she won’t get her way. Still, at least she isn’t a hapless female — she still ends up needing rescuing, but she also gets in some pretty good shots of her own. For funding to chase this theory, the perennially broke Finn has turned to a slightly shady rap star called Bigg Bunny. Nope, I’m not making that up; the film’s writers did. He owns a small island and apparently his own brand of rum as well. He also, appropriately, owns an extremely large rabbit. And he has a touch of gold fever, and is determined to beat Finn to the treasure, especially once he catches Finn misappropriating funds.
Tess, meanwhile, has turned to her new boss, the multimillionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland), as a safer source of funding. So once he and his daugher Gemma (spoiled, ditzy, and kind of like Paris Hilton, but much more wholesome looking) turn treasure hunter, basically half the people in that part of the Caribbean are all butting heads, trying to find that gold. In such a small space as they make it seem, you’d think someone would have tripped over it long ago.
|If you can’t have a plot, at least have plenty of eye candy for everyone…|
And all sorts of people trip over all sorts of things in this movie. It’s sort of cartoony that way, right down to the (limited) violence. There’s gunplay, but few bullets hit anything except innocent rocks and engines. Finn not only gets beaten up, but falls in the water a lot (intentionally or otherwise), leaps onto taxiing planes, jumps off cliffs, and even water-skis without benefit of skis. But don’t let it fool you: it’s still not an action flick.
What it really is, is a romantic comedy with two and a half idols to its name. Somewhere along the way, I guess someone tried too hard to be all things to all viewers, and it didn’t quite work as planned. Actually, it was a lot like watching a TV movie — inoffensive to nearly everyone, fast-paced, and fluffy. It’s a fun roller coaster ride, but that’s about it, in the end. Hey, maybe Disney could work backwards this time and base its next huge theme park ride on a movie…