Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time | Rated: PG-13 | starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arteron, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Richard Coyle | 1:56 mins
“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” is my official kick off of summer 2010. It’s not a great film, but it blows a warm, care-free summer vacation vibe over the audience. Hey, it’s ok. It’s summer, sit back and relax. I don’t want a TV commercial to tell me what movie kicks off summer. I want to get that feeling from the movie. It has to invite me to turn off my brain and go with it. “Persia” does that… mostly.
Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), an orphan who was adopted by the Persian King (Ben Kingsley), leads a raid with his two brothers (one of which is an buffed-up, beared-out Richard Coyle from Coupling!) on a neighboring town and in the process comes in posession of a dagger that can turn back time. When he is accused of murder, Dastan sets off on a journey with the town’s princess (a hot Gemma Arteron) in tow to prove his innocence and unravel the mystery behind the dagger and the power coup in place to obtain it.
An attempt to re-capture the swashbuckling magic of “Pirates of the Carribean”, Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer turn to director Mike Newell (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”) and Ubitsoft’s video game series to bring some good old fashioned Arabian-set Indiana Jones style swordplay back to summer. As a video game movie, it’s head and shoulders above the rest, an authentic translation of the game’s signiture moves and setting. The game is a platformer, running on movement, leaping, swinging, and running along walls. That is all brought to life very well in the film as Dastan leaps over rooftops and backflips away from impending doom. Those eye-popping stunts are the best scenes in the movie. They even put in the backseat the sands of time. The established rules for the dagger are quite limiting and the movie does, surprisingly, very little playing around with time travel.
On top of it Dastan’s acrobatics are too few and far between. With the solid chase scenes sparced out and the story retreating away from “Pirate’s” convoluted plot to one that is simple beyond words, “Persia” leans heavily on the comedy. Ostrich races are cute, but Alfred Molina shows up to ham it up big time. His rants about taxes and government conspiracies are cringe-inducing in their attempt to appeal to the adults in the crowd. And speaking of government conspiracies, “Prince of Persia” was clearly released a few years too late. It would have been much more critically acclaimed, it’s political inspiration noted as clever by critics had it been released during the Bush Administration with it’s story of a leader who lies about reasons to lead an invasion that occupies a city so that he can get to the natural resource underneath. No blood for sand!
Gyllenhaal on the other hand is very good, both nailing the light comic tone of the movie and filling the hero role for lean, muscle-bound acrobatic Dastan. Gliding in on the very forgiving summer movie season, “Prince of Persia” fits the bill well. A solid video game adaptation made by people who have some idea of what was in the game and an entertaining – if simple – little adventure with a sense of humor that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.