I went to see Jumper with a female friend, who wanted to go because Hayden Christensen is pretty. I wanted to go because Rachel Bilson is pretty. Our post-film analysis concluded that because Jamie Bell is so pretty now, it makes watching him as a 13-year-old in Billy Elliot kind of awkward.

So no, I wasn't expecting good things out of Jumper, and I got what I wanted.

It is a film totally without personality; its existence is a matter solely of commerce and the knowledge that deep down, most of us do not require much in the way of logical storytelling or a compelling visual language when there are pretty people to be gawked at. This is indeed the reason that movie stars exist, not that Christensen or Bilson are particularly good movie stars, being respectively "Oh God, that Star Wars kid" and "Who?" "The friend on The O.C." "Oh, God." Also, Bilson weighs about 20 pounds nowadays, and that's really too alarming to be even a little bit sexy.

Anyway, the story goes: David Rice (Christensen) is 15 years old when he finds out that he can jump instantly through space, to any place he has seen (or apparently, seen in a photograph). So he runs away, leaving behind a drunkard father (the perpetually under-loved Michael Rooker) and Millie (Bilson), a sweet girl who fancies him. Before you can say "with great power comes great responsibility," he's robbing banks and living the high life, and eight years go by in wretched excess, visiting the beautiful places of the world and hooking up with the beautiful women of the world. Eventually, his life catches up with him, in the form of Roland (muthafuckin' Samuel L. Jackson), the leader of an ancient religious order that seeks to eradicate all the world's "Jumpers."

For David, we find soon, is not alone; and with the help of a paranoid young Brit named Griffin (Jamie Bell), he prepares to wage war against Roland and his order, before something terrible happens to Millie at their hands. And what is the mysterious secret around David's absent mother Mary (Diane Lane)? Insultingly easy to guess, that's what.

The thing that makes me want to scratch my eyes out is that this isn't essentially bad. It is very nearly essentially good, and just about every five minutes during the film, I caught myself coming up with story ideas that would have been several times more engaging than what I was watching. I know that thinking about all the movies you didn't see is one of the least productive ways to spend your time, but Jumper all but demands you do so. At a certain point, David convinces Griffin to join his fight by appealing to the idea of a limited-run superhero team-up. By this point, I'd already long since written an entire movie trilogy about Jumpers as superheroes in my head, but it still wasn't very nice of the film to point out how self-evident that idea is, and then not give it to me. Or elsewhere, the question is raised, what choice do the religious zealots hunting the Jumpers have? Well, since we're told that this war has been going on since the Middle Ages, it seems awfully likely to me that the frighteningly authoritarian and secular Church that existed at that time might have come up with some very good uses for the Jumpers, especially since we're also told that the power manifests itself at age five. Ignatius Loyola would have dropped dead of ecstasy if he'd been given those boys to brainwash. The religious Jumpers being used to hunt the rest: tell me that wouldn't have been at least marginally more interesting than what we got.

Because, here's what we got: a young man steals his way to a fortune, assuming that eventually he'll pay it all back, lets everyone who ever knew him think that he's dead for eight years, he fucks his way across three continents while keeping it in his head that he's being true to his childhood sweetheart, he only leaves his hedonistic life to prove to that sweetheart that she should love him again, he leaves allies for dead and ends up incapacitating several innocent bystanders; ladies and gentlemen, our hero. I don't find it in me to disagree with Roland says that he must be destroyed as an abomination.

Of course, we are talking about Hayden Christensen versus Samuel Jackson. A famously inexpressive pretty boy versus one of the most badass mothers in the history of the cinema. Moreover, this is Jackson with frosty white hair, which is even more badass than his already dangerously high level of badassery. Casting Samuel L. Jackson with frosty white hair turns out to be a really great way to score many unearned points for your villain. Casting Christensen proves that you are interested in an audience of teenage girls. Indiscriminate teenage girls. I don't know if the film would have been better with an actor who doesn't naturally seem like such a smug asshole - I doubt it - but it wouldn't have been any worse. As for the rest of the cast, well, they're pretty much there: Bilson needs to eat something, and her timing has slipped since the first couple of seasons of that show that I didn't watch so DON'T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT because I didn't watch it, except I mean just a few episodes I QUIT WHEN IT GOT REALLY BAD. As young David, Max Thierot looks quite a lot like Christensen. As a sexily unshaven Brit, Jamie Bell is indescribably too good for this script. As the Diane Lane character, Diane Lane is exceptionally Diane Lanetastic.

Director Doug Liman has gone from making a fun, brainy thriller in The Bourne Identity to a fun, silly thriller in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and now he's just made a silly thriller that has to good decency to keep moving forward. It's clear that Liman is just getting the job done, even in his historic scene shot inside Rome's Coliseum; the best example I can think of is the inevitable Christensen/Bilson sex scene, which is blocked as badly as I've ever seen sex blocked, and which actually made my female friend snicker out loud. I did not do that, because I am a sober-minded critic, but...oh, I snickered. I can't lie. Meanwhile, David Goyer co-wrote the script, and if this and The Invisible are the sorts of projects he wants to be involved with nowadays, I think we can all breathe easy that he's not an active part of the creative team on The Dark Knight.

A summary paragraph? Why? It's monumentally mediocre, but it's impossible to expect it to be anything else, and that adds up to a nice bit of brain-dead fun. There's nothing wrong with the film, there's nothing right with the film. That's not true. There's Samuel L. Jackson with frosty white hair snarling, "There are ALWAYS! CONSEQUENCES!" That's worth some money, I suppose.