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3 reviews, 8 user ratings

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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
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by Peter Sobczynski

"No One Cares About Persian Prats"
1 stars

A few years ago, uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer raised the eyebrows of most of Hollywood--at least those still capable of movement--when it was announced that he was producing a wildly expensive film that would be based on a highly unlikely property, would attempt to revive a cinematic subgenre that had long since fallen into disuse, would be directed by someone not exactly famous for handling large-scale epics and would include a cast consisting of a respected Oscar winner whose name meant nothing to the general public, a comely-but-unknown British starlet and an enormously talented young actor who had not only never really proven himself as a consistent box-office draw but who was being allowed to deliver a performance so deliberately freaky that it set off panic among studio executives. Although the odds of such a thing coming off must have seemed astronomical on paper, Bruckheimer did take the gamble and the end result, a little thing called “Pirates of the Caribbean,” wound up paying off in spades. Alas, when a long shot gamble hits as big as that film did, there is sometimes an impulse on the part of the gambler to double-down in the hopes that lightning will strike twice and so it is that Bruckheimer has now presented us with “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time,” another wildly expensive film that is based on a highly unlikely property, attempts to revive a cinematic subgenre that has long since fallen into disuse and is directed by someone not exactly famous for handling large-scale epics and featuring a cast including a respected Oscar winner whose name means nothing to the general public, a comely-but-unknown starlet and a talented young actor who has never proven himself to be a consistent box-office draw and who has been allowed to deliver a deliberately freaky performance. While this combination might have looked good on paper this time around, it certainly doesn’t on the screen for this a visually lackluster and creatively inert waste of time and effort that doesn’t even equal the artistic peaks of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequels. As gambles go, Bruckheimer has crapped out so completely this time around that I half expected to see a post-credit cookie featuring him sitting in a room singing “The Desert Inn has heart!!!!”

Based on a video game franchise that I am completely unfamiliar with and will no doubt continue to be for the immediate future at least, “Prince of Persia,” set somewhere between the forming of the Persian empire and the invention of conditioner, is yet another epic tale of a callow young man charged with transporting a sacred and dangerous relic from point A to point B (depending on how many sequels there are) without letting it fall into the wrong hands and putting the fate of the world at risk as a result. This time, our hero is Dastan, a young boy of the streets who impresses the noble King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) with his courage, bravery and ability to exploit shoddy Persian craftsmanship when being chased by palace guards and takes him in to be raised alongside his two other sons, the gallant Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and the goofus Tus (Richard Coyle), and his brother/court adviser Nizam (Ben Kingsley). Years later, Dastan (now played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and his brothers are about to sack the holy city of Alamut in search of weapons that they are supposedly selling to enemies of Persia. Naturally, the easy-going Dastan doesn’t think that this is a good idea but when he is overruled, he joins in and manages to more or less single-handedly breach the kingdom’s walls and allow his men to enter and take over. Alas, while he and his fellow invaders are unable to find evidence that Alamut had the capability to make weapons for anyone (sound familiar), Dastan does come across a nifty-looking dagger that he gloms onto and seems to hit the jackpot when King Sharaman, who did not order the invasion and who wants to smooth things over, arrives and suggests that peace between the two countries can be reached if Dastan marries the lovely and fragrant Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton). Sure, the two have already demonstrated that they don’t like each other and never will but before they can indulge in more snippy banter, Sharaman is killed and Dastan is accused of murdering him.

With the unexpected help of Tamina, Dastan manages to escape certain death and the two of them head for the hills but as it turns out, she is less interested in him than in the mighty dagger in his possession--oh, the one that he came upon while sacking the city, you perv! Anyway, it turns out that it is a special dagger that, when one presses the jeweled button on its hilt, releases a magical sand that can turn back time with only its possessor knowing what has happened and that she has been charged with keeping it out of the hands of those who would use it for nefarious purposes and wind up destroying the world in the process. To ensure that doesn’t happen, she must return it to same sacred and faraway place where it can be properly hidden away. Dastan, on the other hand, is convinced that the newly-crowned Garsiv faked the weapons warning in order to search for the dagger and killed the king in order to possess it and have all the power in the world--he wants to take the dagger to Nizam as proof of his innocence and of Garsiv’s treachery. However--and if you really need me to say Spoiler Alert here, you really need to get out more often--it is the treacherous Nizam who is responsible for anything and who wants the dagger and its power for himself. (Has there ever been a movie of this type featuring Ben Kingsley in which he hasn’t turned out to be the villain?) Anyway, the rest of the film involves a bunch of endless chase scenes, a bunch of equally endless special effects orgies involving swirling sands, collapsing buildings and the like, a side trip to visit a proto-Tea Bagger (Alfred Molina) who lives with his followers in a fortified compound and bitches about paying taxes and a climactic swordfight that offers the unusual sight of Gandhi and Donnie Darko dueling to the death.

“Prince of Persia” is clearly meant to be a throwback to the silly desert-based swashbuckling adventures that the studios used to crank out like clockwork in the Forties and Fifties to provide work for the likes of Jon Hall, John Derek and Maria Montez--the kind of film where people would be attacking or defending theoretically impregnable castles that, based on the look of things, appeared in danger of toppling over in the face of a strong breeze. These films were awesomely dumb and tacky, of course, but even the worst of them often provided 90-odd minutes of cheap but potent entertainment for those viewers with a taste for the ridiculous. Although “Prince of Persia” is certainly as dumb and tacky as anything that you are likely to see these days (and that is saying a lot), it lacks any of the entertainment value that even the weakest of those older films remembered to provide for viewers--it isn‘t so much a cinematic epic as it is a cinematic ipecac. The story is nothing more than another lame variation on the epic quest template and the one unusual element of note--the time-defying dagger--s never integrated to the story in any meaningful or interesting way; it just serves as a narrative get-out-of-jail free card every now and then. Although he did previously helm one of the Harry Potter movies, Mike Newell, best known for such films as “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Donnie Brasco,” is not necessarily the first person you might think of to helm a blood-and-thunder action extravaganza and as this one plods along, he continually shows you why thanks to a never-ending series of indifferently staged and poorly executed actions sequences that pretty much stand as the perfect contemporary illustration of that time-honored phrase about a whole lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. And while it is true that no one goes to a movie like this for the acting, the performances here are pretty much useless as well. Gyllenhall is painfully miscast as Dastan--he looks like a metalhead caught at his day job at Medieval Times without his hairnet and goes through the entire film with a smug smirk on his face that you keep wishing someone would just smack off and a weird little voice that pretty much defies description or explanation. As for Kingsley, one might have hoped that he would embrace the cheesiness and deliver the kind of overripe performance that a role like his deserves but he is inexplicably restrained from the most part to such a degree that he comes across like Ming the Merciless in the helpless throes of a Nyquil coma. Happily, Alfred Molina does bump up the energy level a bit during his brief appearances and he also gets to deliver a line a dialogue that is sure to outlive the movie proper in the minds of anyone who sees it; “Did you know that ostriches have suicidal tendencies?”

Staggering out of “Prince of Persia” after its merciful ending with the sound of Alanis Morrisette caterwauling in the background, I got into a discussion with a couple of colleagues about which was a worse film--the one we had just seen or “Clash of the Titans,” another cut-rate epic that we had suffered through a couple of months earlier and which we confidently assumed would be the low-water mark for such things for the year at least. The general consensus seemed to be that “Prince of Persia” was worse and I suppose I would have to go along with that assessment, if for no other reason that “Clash of the Titans” had more things that were so ridiculously bad that the laughter they inspired could be construed as entertainment while this one can even quite muster that after a while. Besides being ridiculously expensive and generally ridiculous craptaculars, the two films share another common denominator in that both feature Gemma Arterton as the female lead and she is the best thing about both of them. Granted, she doesn’t really have much of anything to do in either one and I was amused to discover that both films required her characters to die and then magically come back to life in order to keep the plot going. That said, she possess breathtaking beauty, loads of charm and a voice so seductive that it could lure a man into doing virtually anything--perhaps Bruckheimer had her talk to the other actors when it was time to sign the contracts. At this point, I would watch her in virtually anything but if I were her, I would probably make it a rule in the future to avoid any and all fantasy projects in which she is required to go on a perilous quest in the company of some buff-but-slack-jawed dope in order to retrieve or return some damn talisman or another. Actually, I may wind up following that advice before too long myself.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19929&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/27/10 23:59:09
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User Comments

3/14/11 bored mom Horribly dull and cliched. I had way more fun watching others play through the 2003 game. 2 stars
2/16/11 millersxing I cringe in anticipation of a sequel - "Hassansins Creed", no doubt. 2 stars
6/12/10 Ming Best video game tranform into film...I love the actions and the suspense 4 stars
6/03/10 Mattomic Sucks balls covered in sand. Saw it at an industry preview months ago and it was plain bad! 1 stars
6/02/10 Daniel Kelly Solid leads and some good action, but it feels like watching somebody else play a videogame 2 stars
5/31/10 irbear Entertaining 4 stars
5/28/10 M Coulda been SO much betta but still enjoyable! 3 stars
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  28-May-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 14-Sep-2010


  DVD: 14-Sep-2010

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Mike Newell

Written by
  Doug Miro
  Carlo Bernard

  Jake Gyllenhaal
  Ben Kingsley
  Gemma Arterton
  Alfred Molina
  Toby Kebbell

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