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With: Tunde Adebimpe, Hippolyte Girardot, Natalia Verbeke, James Wilby
Written by: Joel Hopkins
Directed by: Joel Hopkins
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material, mild sensuality and language
Running Time: 96
Date: 01/19/2001

Jump Tomorrow (2001)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Might As Well 'Jump'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Watching Jump Tomorrow, the debut comedy by Joel Hopkins, tons of different movies leapt into my head: Buster Keaton's and Harold Lloyd's silent comedies, Jacques Tati films, Jim Jarmusch's Stranger than Paradise, Hal Hartley's The Unbelievable Truth, Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films, and so on. Remarkably, despite all these other films popping up like "Whack-a-moles," Jump Tomorrow manages to be a charming and accomplished comedy all of its own.

The movie's power comes from another first-timer, actor Tunde Adebimpe, who plays George, a shy, dull African-American living in New York whose arranged marriage to a Nigerian girl is coming up in just three days. He tries to meet her at the airport but misses her by a whole day. Instead a beautiful Spanish-American girl, Alicia (Natalia Verbeke), invites him to a party.

Meanwhile, a big-hearted Frenchman, Gerard (Hippolyte Girardot), proposes to his girl at the airport and suffers a horrible heartbreak when she turns him down. The two broken-hearted men meet, and decide to go to Alicia's party. George is immediately struck by the Spanish beauty, but learns she has a boyfriend, a pompous Englishman (James Wilby). Worse, the couple is moving to Canada together. So George and Gerard hit the road without a plan, hoping against hope that Alicia will see the light and make the jump to George.

So it's not the most original plot in the world. But Hopkins presents the film in such a deliciously deadpan way, completely avoiding slapstick and without ever losing his tone. Hopkins also gets plenty of mileage from his rigorous camera set-ups and framing. George usually occupies the direct center of the frame, emphasizing his "squareness" and shyness, feeling that he's in the spotlight and doesn't want to be there.

George reminded me a little of Harold Lloyd with his glasses ("I feel like they're a big part of my face," he tells Alicia), a little of Peter Sellers, and also a little of Eddie Murphy performing his "Mr. White" character on "Saturday Night Live." He moves so very little, keeping his arms rigid at his sides. A hilarious scene in a dance club shows the poor lovestruck George dancing in little squares, perfectly mirroring his shy interior. When he talks to Alicia, he nods his head constantly, as if trying to extend what she's saying long enough to come up with something of his own to say.

Hopkins uses both interior and exterior space to brilliant comic advantage, placing Gerard's tiny car in the center of a huge frame, or filling the entire frame with just George's face. This exaggerated re-sizing of everything brings an unconscious comic gloss to the entire picture, much in the way Chaplin used the contrast of his giant baggy pants and small, undersized coat for his Little Tramp character.

In addition, Hopkins paints his film in all sorts of bizarre colors, including the all-red hotel room Gerard and George stay on while on Alicia's trail. Not to mention the four different nationalities of the four main characters (and none of them white Anglo-Saxon).

It's rare to find this kind of discipline in American comedies, most of which have spent the last 25 years trying to rip off National Lampoon's Animal House. Despite this, those comedy filmmakers I've named here are the ones that we remember most and treasure. I predict we'll see a lot more of Hopkins and Adebimpe -- and we'll be all the better for it.
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