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[whitespace] 'Jump Tomorrow'
Drinking Buddies: Hippolyte Girardot and Tunde Adebimpe share company and some beverages while on the road.

Jumping Track

Old formulas get some new twists in the reimagined road movie 'Jump Tomorrow'

By Jim Aquino

BRITISH-BORN short film director Joel Hopkins' first feature, the screwball road movie Jump Tomorrow, is sometimes as awkward as its buttoned-up, bespectacled hero, a lovestruck Nigerian-American nerd named George (Tunde Adebimpe), but it's an intriguing debut for Hopkins, who adapted his acclaimed 1998 Sundance short Jorge.

Adebimpe, a nonprofessional actor whose day job is clay-animating for shows like MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch, reprises the short's title role of George, an introverted, tightly wound travel agent who's trying to get to Niagara Falls to make official an arranged marriage between him and a Nigerian family friend whom he hasn't seen since childhood. Of course, circumstances keep preventing George from making it to the ceremony on time, among them: an initially unwanted traveling companion in the form of Gerard (Hippolyte Girardot), a chatty, eccentric Frenchman who, when George first encounters him at the airport, has just been jilted by his girlfriend and is trying to recover; and George's own conflicted heart.

George is smitten with another person he meets at the airport and keeps crossing paths with: Alicia (Natalia Verbeke), a pretty Latina college student who's also embarking on a road trip to get hitched, to her pretentious British professor boyfriend and hitchhiking companion (James Wilby). To cope with his breakup, Gerard offers to drive his new friend to Niagara and at the same time play matchmaker for George and Alicia, who's also having second thoughts about her fiancé.

Although the multicultural casting makes one want to say "United Clichés of Benetton," the cast is an enjoyable group of unknowns, particularly Verbeke and Adebimpe, whose character is like a cross between Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby and Eddie Murphy's shy, daydreaming Sherman Klump in the Nutty Professor movies. It's interesting to see a buddy movie where it's the black protagonist who learns from his sidekick how to loosen up and "find his soul," instead of the other way around (i.e. Silver Streak, Rush Hour).

After having to sit through so many drab, ugly-looking English-language indie movies shot on digital video, it's a relief to see a director who doesn't use an ultra-low budget as an excuse for lazy filmmaking. Although some sight gags aren't as funny as Hopkins thinks they are, the first-time director shoots Jump Tomorrow with surprising panache.

One of the movie's highlights is the eccentric way Hopkins stages a nightclub sequence in which the camera follows George as he awkwardly mingles with the ladies while they all do a bizarre, robotic line dance that looks like a dumbed-down version of the cha-cha. Hopkins also seems to share with Mike Myers a love for outlandish Swinging '60s-ish set designs and James Taylor Quartet tunes--perhaps he has a future directing the next Austin Powers sequel. Jump Tomorrow may be a fluffy leap into screwball romance territory, but it's anything but banal.

Jump Tomorrow (PG; 97 min.), written and directed by Joel Hopkins, photographed by Patrick Cady and starring Tunde Adebimpe, Hippolyte Girardot and Natalia Verbeke, opens Friday at Camera 3 in San Jose.

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From the July 5-11, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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