If you approach the new Jerry Bruckheimer video-game-derived popcorn extravaganza “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” as, well, a great big video game – or, even better, a psychedelic romp – you’ll emerge reasonably intact. Something is going on all the time, even if that something is oftentimes clumsy, nonsensical, or flat. But the sheer whoosh of the story line keeps you watching anyway, and, as the prince, Jake Gyllenhaal has a hearty good-naturedness that comes as a relief amid all the turbocharged antics. He wears his heroism lightly.
This is no small feat in a movie that is always threatening to bury him in a mountain of special, and not-so-special, effects. Director Mike Newell and his team of writers are trying for that patented Bruckheimer scary-funny vibe à la “Pirates of the Caribbean.” They don’t quite bring it off, but then neither did any of the “Pirates” sequels, either.
Ancient Persia comes in for some not-so-ancient revamping here. The Persian Army has invaded the city of Alamut because the Alamutians are smuggling swords to Persia’s enemies. Except they’re not. The film’s chief bad guy has concocted this lie as a pretext for invasion. Newell and company don’t press the parallels with Iraq, but they stick out anyway. In just a few years we’ve gone from war-torn Iraq-themed dramas and documentaries to – this. It doesn’t take long for popular culture to cartoonize cataclysms.
The prince, mistakenly accused of killing his father, is partnered for most of the movie with Alamut’s Princess Tamina, played by Gemma Arterton in a state of perpetual pout. They – and, for a time, just about everybody else in the movie – are in possession of a magic dagger that can turn back time for one minute. Kind of like an ancient rewind button. One might be tempted to hit fast forward instead, though not during the scenes involving Alfred Molina, who brings some levity to the proceedings as an ostrich-racing sheikh. As the Persian king’s brother Nizam, Ben Kingsley does his best not to let his eyeliner upstage him. Grade: B- (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.)
More Monitor movie reviews: