Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mindless "Prince of Persia" offers time-filler for fan boys

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) 
116 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: B -

You know what they say about men with big swords. Well, nevermind, but if it's hokey, high-flying, high-adventure summer entertainment (not in 3-D) that you're seeking, "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" may just quench your thirst for sand, sandals, swords, and cheese galore. Just don't expect it to stick with you 'til the sands of time. And if Disney and the Jerry Bruckheimer juggernaut can turn a theme park ride into the hit "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, then why not a hit video game movie? 

Jake Gyllenhaal, ripped like a Persian Fabio with flowing locks and boyish good looks, has appealing presence as our noble hero Dastan, a former street urchin taken in by King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) and his two sons in sixth-century Persia. In midst of attacking the city of Alamut, Dastan gets his hands on a dagger that contains powerful sand and allows its possessor to reverse time (cue the “ooh ah” choir voices). But before discovering its mystical powers, he's framed for the murder of his father (by way of poisoned robe) and goes on the run with Princess Tamina (spunky Gemma Arterton, just seen in "Clash of the Titans"), whose destiny is to protect Persia's manufactured weapons. 

The story is pretty convoluted and episodic, becoming exhausting as it turns into a nonstop climax of Dastan losing the dagger, then retrieving the dagger, etc, before it unleashes a horrific armageddon. But while the gung-ho actors try keeping us up to speed with all the exposition through clichéd, straight-spoken dialgoue, it's more about the swashbuckling set pieces and CGI effects, like its video game counterpart, as Gyllenhaal leaps off buildings from each elaborate level to the next. 

Director Mike Newell keeps things moving at a lively clip and the sweeping Moroccan sand dunes gorgeous. Though recalling the "Indiana Jones" movies, the "Mummy" movies, the "Pirates" movies, "Aladdin," and "300," this one has a good sense of humor too. And the evil sorcery of the Hassansins, led by creepy Gísli Örn Garđrsson and his slithering serpents, is darkly cool stuff like Harry Potter's Voldemort. Sir Ben Kingsley goes through the villainous motions in eye makeup as Dastan's dastardly uncle Nizam. But Alfred Molina has a hammy, jolly time in mascara, like Johnny Depp did as Captain Jack Sparrow, as a chatty, roguish sheik who doesn't pay taxes and promotes ostrich stampedes (!). Without trying to be Lawrence of Arabaia, the gloriously mindless "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" will do as a fun time-filler for the giddy 15-year-old boy in all of us.

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