Like Ficarra and Requa’s 2011 comedy Crazy Stupid Love, Focus begins promisingly and bops along enjoyably for a while, only to run out of steam…
In a world gone horribly wrong, where actions have no consequences, where all of humanity has become unaccountably oblivious to blatant violations of the time-space continuum, where rules exist not to be broken but to be disregarded, where continuity is irrelevant... anything is possible!
There you have the premise for Doug Liman's "Jumper: The Prequel," a movie so silly you may find yourself giggling helplessly even as you wish you could magically transport yourself almost anywhere else in the world but where you are, in front of the screen showing it.
Let me jump back and correct that: The title proper is "Jumper," but the port for the sequel is installed into the Epilogue. And there is one inviolable rule: No Girls in the Lair!
Does this make any sense to you? No? Good, then it's not just me. Fortunately, I can't risk giving away too much of the story because there isn't one. There's just this guy named David (mostly played by 26-year-old Hayden Christensen, but sometimes by 19-year-old Max Thieriot, though the use of separate actors is superfluous since one doesn't look appreciably older than the other) who can jump from, say, New York to Tokyo instantaneously.
In the Prologue, David has a crush on this girl named Millie (mostly "The OC"'s Rachel Bilson) but there's a bully named Biff -- er, Mark (entirely Jesse James?). Poor David lives with his mean alcoholic dad Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer (Michael Rooker, as William) in a room with posters of Einstein and Kurt Cobain. He's gotta get outta this place. Ann Arbor, that is. He's trapped. So, he "jumps."
It's every kid's fantasy: Find yourself in a bad situation and pop right out of it. It's every Don Juan's fantasy: You can pick up a hot blond babe in a bar, have sex with her, and disappear immediately afterwards. It's every travel agent's nightmare: You can go anywhere in a blink -- picnic on the head of the Sphinx, hang out with the minute hand on Big Ben as if you were Mary Poppins... and, here's the thing: Nobody notices.
Sometimes when David jumps he busts up the walls or floors and generates a lot of dust or water damage; sometimes he doesn't. But, either way, nobody pays any attention. It's scary. David can plop into a throng of extras anywhere in the world -- the streets of Tokyo or a London pub -- and except for this one kid at the Detroit airport, not one person bats an eyelash. And if it doesn't matter to them, why should it to us?
It's implied that the jumper may have to have visited a place before he can jump to it, but maybe not, so never mind. When such miracles can can occur anytime, without reason or explanation, then life and plots are meaningless. "Jumper" may as well be subtitled "The Trouble with CGI." Anything can happen, and usually does, but so what?
By the time Mace Windu shows up with white hair and a light-taser (Samuel L. Jackson, as Roland)... oh, forget it. Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell, as Griffin) explains that since Medieval Times (I believe there's one in Schaumburg) the Palladins have been hunting the Jumpers. It's been going on for centuries, and no one seems to know or care why the Paladins were apparently named after imperial guards of ancient Rome -- and, later, high officials in the Catholic Church -- and the Jumpers are just called Jumpers. Nor does the movie explain its own movie-references, like why a skyscraper plummet from the Coen brothers' "The Hudsucker Proxy" should suddenly collide with the public pool scene from "Little Children" (or is it the Baby Ruth scene from "Caddyshack"?). Because it's totally random, that's why.
In a movie review, it's usually incumbent upon the critic to make at least one mention of the movie as a movie. The cinematic touch that stuck with me is when David returns to Ann Arbor after an eight-year absence and has a Marty McFly moment when he discovers that Millie has become (wait for it) a barmaid! (At least she's not his mom, but what's happened to his mom is even more awful and inexplicable.) There's an oddly framed shot where David and Millie are talking across the bar and in between them are at least three extras watching an off-screen football game.
You will find yourself watching the extras.
Captain's log: eight fifth graders, one adult, one James Cameron movie.
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