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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time / *** (PG-13)

Posted Thursday, June 3, 2010, at 10:42 PM

Jake Gyllenhaal makes his bid for action stardom in Disney's "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time".
Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films present a film directed by Mike Newell. Written by Boaz Yakin and Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard and Jordan Mechner. Based on the video game "Prince of Persia" created by Mechner. Running time: 116 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action).

I love movies. This being the case, I often feel I mistake my joy in watching movies with the quality of the films themselves. This feeling usually comes over me when I'm sitting in a theater having a perfectly good time watching a movie I know most critics--or at least the ones I respect--felt was mediocre at best. That feeling came over me in the middle of watching Disney's latest attempt at a sword and magic action adventure franchise "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time". I thought at that moment that when I got home, I should check out what those critics had to say about why audiences should steer away from this movie. By the time the movie was over, I couldn't have cared less what other critics felt. This is a fun movie.

Based on the popular video game "Prince of Persia", this movie is that cinematic rarity of being a video game movie adaptation that is actually fun for audiences who don't play video games. I don't know anything about the video game, but the movie is a rousing adventure that sees the bonds of brotherhood both broken and bonded to make a kingdom stronger. It has high-energy action sequences, seductive leads, a twirling but cohesive plot line, some humor, and dazzling special effects. It's everything you'd want in a summer time blockbuster.

Jake Gyllenhaal ("The Day After Tomorrow") makes his claim as an action hero playing Prince Dastan, who was adopted as a child by King Sharaman off the streets when the king observed him fighting for what was right. As adults he and the king's two biological sons lead the Persian army against the holy city of Alamut for allegedly supplying weapons to an enemy nation. Tus (Richard Coyle, "A Good Year"), the heir apparent, councels with his brothers before assaulting the city. Dastan desires a diplomatic approach, while Garsiv (Toby Kebbell, "RockNRolla"), Tus's blood brother, seeks swift justice. Their Uncle Nazim (Ben Kingsley, "Shutter Island") casts the final vote, assuring the brothers the city is supplying their enemies, which cannot be tolerated.

Garvis leads the attack on Alamut, but the cleverer Dastan disobeys orders and infiltrates the city first. This opening battle scene demonstrates director Mike Newell's highly kinetic approach to action. In this scene, and just about every action sequence in the picture, Dastan performs a version of the modern action film trend of parkur, the art of using the geography and landscape surrounding the action for running and jumping to avoid and attack the enemy. This is the first film I've seen it in a film that hasn't really brought much attention to the fact that this is parkur.

Once they've taken the city, Dastan discovers a strange dagger that the princess of the city, Tamina (Gemma Arterton, "Clash of the Titans"), seems very interested in protecting. The king, upon his arrival, chastises the brothers for not seeking a diplomatic solution, but accepts a gift from Dastan for gaining control over Alamut. The gift is poisoned, and Dastan is accused of murdering the king. He flees with Tamina and discovers the dagger holds a powerful secret.

There are several dazzling effects scenes to go along with credits-to-credits action. What separates this movie from many summer blockbusters, however, it that the plot and action support each other, rather than the plot only serving the action. Perhaps this should not be a surprise coming from a director like Newell, whose previous work is filled with dramas like "Enchanted April". His one previous big budget credit is "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire". Considering his work there and in this film, I'd say Hollywood might consider turning to him a little more often for their blockbuster fare.

"Prince of Persia" is by no means a masterpiece of cinema. It is, however, the best video game movie adaptation I've seen. On top of being an over the top action extravaganza, it is also a smart, plot driven movie and a whole lot of fun to boot. This one is great for kicking your feet up and shoving your hand into the popcorn bag for a big mouthful.

"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" is currently playing at Marshall Cinema and Galaxy Cinema in Sedalia.

Visit A Penny in the Well for DVDs, movie clips, and star rating scale.

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Andrew is a professionally trained actor and stage director. He was a reporter for the daily newspaper The Marshall Democrat News. He has been critiquing film since Mr. Lucas released the first of his "Star Wars" prequels in 1999. His reviews can also be seen at his blog site.
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