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'Prince of Persia' a bore

Movie review

June 01, 2010|By BOB GARVER / Special to The Herald-Mail
  • In this film publicity image released by Disney, Gemma Arterton, left, and Jake Gyllenhaal are shown in a scene from, "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."
Associated Press,

Video games-turned-movies have a bad reputation in Hollywood for being consistent bombs. The good people at Disney have promised that "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" is unlike any video game adaptation ever made. They claim to have gone to great lengths to make it accessible, well-crafted and fun. After seeing the film, I can report that they have spent a lot of money on the film, and that's about it.

The problem with "Prince of Persia" has nothing to do with its source material. This isn't one of those zombie-laden splatterfests where the movie would be terrible no matter what. There might be a good "Prince of Persia" movie to be made, but this isn't it. The plot is riddled with nonsense, the action scenes and special effects are generic, the characters are poorly developed - and the acting is terrible. The film could have been based on an acclaimed piece of literature and still been just as awful. Blaming the fact that it was originally a video game is not an answer or an excuse.

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The plot involves "Prince" Dustand (Jake Gyllenhaal), an unofficial member of the Persian royal family. He and his brothers lead an attack on a subsidiary kingdom that they believe is selling weapons to enemy empires. Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) of the innocent members of the kingdom tries to protect a valuable dagger, but Dustand intercepts it. One of Dustand's brothers gives him a holy robe to present to their father the king as a war spoil. The robe turns out to be poisoned, the king dies and everyone thinks Dustand is responsible, despite him not having a motive (his older brother is next in line for the throne and the robe was recently in the hands of enemies). Tamina helps Dustand escape and they go on the lam together.

Tamina reveals a secret to Dustand. The dagger that he stole from her is powerful as well as valuable. A jewel on its hilt releases The Sands of Time, which rewinds time one minute. But there is also a huge stockpile of magic sand in her kingdom that might allow an unscrupulous person to rewind time years and years. But if they rewind time too far, they might trigger a sandstorm that would wipe out the whole world. So it's best to just take enough to rewind time for a minute. Dustand must stop the guilty party, but who is it? One of the power-hungry brothers? Or his uncle (Ben Kingsley) who saved his brother the king as a child, unintentionally sabotaging his own chances at the throne in the process? Fans of Disney's far-superior "The Lion King" know to put money on the uncle.

There's a laundry list of problems with the film, I'll have to rattle them off quickly. All the actors are from America and England, they can't play Middle Eastern convincingly at all. The characters are inconsistent in their dispositions (Tamina is particularly problematic, she'll be wise and independent in one scene and nagging and needy in the next). The climactic fight scene makes no sense and it's not clear how exactly the villain hasn't completely succeeded. And perhaps most irritating is the fact that the film is far too violent. Adventure has nothing to do with the constant sword-skewerings, not to mention the way that it goes against the family-friendly Disney model. Heck, the characters spend the entire movie trying to get control of a weapon.

Disney will have "Toy Story 3" ready to go in three weeks, and I'll be ready to forgive them by then. "Prince of Persia" is a bad movie, but it's too bland for its badness to stick with you. Its inability to hold anyone's interest may prove to be its greatest strength, because just about everything about it is certainly a weakness.

"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action. Its runtime is 126 minutes.

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