Saturday, May 29, 2010

Movie Review: Prince of Persia-The Sands of Time

I can't come up with a cute opening. So let's just jump in... (and yes there are spoilers.)

As our story opens we discover the land of Persia, the most powerful in the world, ruled by the noble king Sharaman (Ronald Pickup). One day while out among his subjects he witness an act of bravery done by an orphan named Dastan. Impressed he adopts the boy and we jump ahead 20 years where Dastan (now a buff Jake Gyllenhaal) is helping his adopted brothers invade the holy city of Alamut when word reaches them they are harboring weapons for their enemies. During the raid the Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) sends a soldier out with a sacred weapon to get out of the city but Dastan ends up with it. The dagger it seems contains the sacred Sands of Time which can be used to reverse time up to a minute to change or prevent an action. When Dastan is accused of murdering Sharaman he pulls a Richard Kimble and hits the road trying to clear his name. With his angry brothers and a scheming uncle (Ben Kingsley), a greedy tax evader (Alfred Molina) and his gang and a group of deadly assassins on his trail Dastan has to use his wits and agile skill to save the day and win the babe. Yep standard summer fare.

If there is a movie this summer that has a lot going against it, Prince of Persia-The Sands of Time is it. First off its based on a video game, a sub-genre that has mostly resulted in such bombs like Super Mario Bros, the Jean Claude Van Damme Street Fighter and the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider flicks. Director Mike Newell is better known for chick flicks like Four Weddings and a Funeral (even though he did direct Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire-one of the better ones in that series). Throw that in with it being produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (who for every good movie-like Pirates of the Caribbean-we get two lousy ones-like the Pirates sequels) and Disney and you would think it would be a complete disaster.

But to my surprise it isn't the total lost cause I thought it would be. In fact compared to most of this summer's rather gloomy looking offerings (from the reportedly joyless Robin Hood to Christopher Nolan's Inception) Prince is sunny-and not just because it takes place in bright deserts. The plot is pretty straight forward if unoriginal-just replace the dagger with the Lost Ark and Dastan and Tamina with Indy and Marion and yet get the idea. Thankfully Gyllenhaal brings humor and fits the hero role well-something you wouldn't get from Donnie Darko, while Arterton does her best-even if it in the latter part of the film she ends up playing virtually the same character she played in Clash of the Titans. The real scene stealer is Molina who brings needed comedy relief but doesn't wear out his welcome. And of course from a technical standpoint the cinematography looks great, the FX okay (too much CGI sand brings back memories of The Mummy Returns-not good) and the costumes shows off Arterton pretty well (start ogling.)

In the end it gets a **1/2 out of four. I'll get grief I'm sure from somebody. But for now its a fun film. Believe me I'll take it any day over forty-something shoe obsessives.

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