GENRE: Video-game derived, relentlessly sandy Bruckheimer action extravaganza
THE PITCH: Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a street kid-turned-courageous-(and buff)-warrior prince in sixth century Persia. When Dastan, along with his brothers and his uncle (Ben Kingsley) conquer the holy city of Alamut, a struggle ensues within the family for control, not just of the empire, but of a sand-fuelled dagger with the power to turn back time.
MONEY SHOTS: The glorious scenery and Gyllenhaals countless acrobatic fight scenes are the movies visual bread and butter (or lavash and paneer, if you prefer). Dastans constantly overcoming superior enemy firepower with his climbing, leaping and quick wits. Its breathless fun, but unfortunately the camera is frequently too close-up and the edits too choppy. Every time youre about to hit a majestic Crouching Camel, Hidden Dagger sorta moment, youre pulled back to Earth with close-ups and some crunching bones.
STOCK REPORT: The film features two especially annoying archetypes. Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), deposed ruler of Alamut, is frigid and pouty at first with Dastan (who overthrew her after all). Then, as all movie damsels do, she gradually falls ill with cinematic Stockholm Syndrome. Seso (Steve Toussaint) plays what Spike Lee once called the magical negro, a mystical black supporting character whose only apparent motive in life is to help his white friends.
BEST LINE: When Tamina harangues Dastan for his swagger, he turns to her with his soulful eyes and says What youre looking at is the walk of a man who just lost everything. Honorable mention: Protect the dagger. Its kinda of the theme of the movie, after all.
WORST LINE: Tamina calls Persians a horde of camel-riding illiterates. First of all, lady, Alamut is in Persia. Check your map. Second of all, even camel jockeys have feelings.
ACCURACY SHMACCURACY: To be sure, you dont go see a Bruckheimer video game movie for historical accuracy, but really the only vaguely Persian things about the film were the title and a couple of names (ex. Dastan and Alamut). The characters speak with British accents. And the sets dont look especially Persian. Its more North African (where much of it was filmed), with a few minutes of Indian subcontinent, than Persian.
TYPECASTING ALERT: The Sands of Time is the second film in seven years in which British-born actor Sir Ben Kingsley has played a murderous, Persian army commander. The other was 2003s House of Sand and Fog. Kingsley came to the attention of American moviegoers with his Oscar-winning 1982 portrayal of ultimate peacenik, Gandhi. Talk about range. Hes the Meryl Streep of beige men.
BEST CREDIT: Gyllenhaals personal trainer was named during the closing credits. Is there an Oscar for turning delicate pretty boys into muscled-up, on-screen killing machines? There should be.
SUPERFLUOUS CANADIAN: An overly mannered, angsty Alanis Morrissette track plays over the closing the credits. It doesnt quite match the films playful, rompiness. If you find it distracting, just imagine her awesome cover of My Humps in its place.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Good clean fun. Except for all the sand.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
3 out of 5 stars. Directed by Mike Newell. Stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley. Rated PG-13. Opens Fri, May 28. At area theaters.
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