Prince of Persia
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
You might think that an epic adventure set in ancient times, about an orphan adopted by a king, a brave strong-willed princess from another city, and a plot by villains to take over the empire, might be an updating of a classic film starring Tyrone Power, or Errol Flynn, or even Jon Hall and Maria Montez. But no…this is 2010 after all, so Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is based on… what else… a video game. And it’s a good thing it wasn’t shot in 3-D, because all the characters, with the exception of the aforementioned princess, are completely one-dimensional.
Jake Gyllenhaal is ok as the adopt-a-prince, but seems out of place in both time and genre. The film needs a young Burt Lancaster or Kirk Douglas in this role, especially since many of the stunts in Prince of Persia are versions of earlier work performed by these two great stars. You would do well to settle in with a DVD of Lancaster’s The Crimson Pirate from 1952 for an idea of what a great swashbuckler should be.
The usually excellent British thespians Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina bring new meaning to the term “ham.” They overact and chew the scenery as if they might never work again. Kingsley snarls and hisses, and Molina brings to mind the terrible, albeit Oscar-winning, performance from Hugh Griffith in Ben-Hur.
The rest of the cast is unfamiliar, but okay, with, again, the exception of the princess. She is played by Gemma Arterton, who stole the last James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, with her turn as the agent named Strawberry Fields. She captures the character of the princess, and makes her live and breathe. Not only is she an incredibly beautiful lady, but also has talent to spare. Her career is just getting started, and it will be a pleasure to see what she does in the future.
Mike Newell, who did one of the earlier Harry Potter outings, directed Prince of Persia. However, he seemed more comfortable directing his quieter, gentler hit Four Weddings and a Funeral. As with any action film, there are lots of fights, and stunts, and running, and jumping. Three editors are credited, and they all worked hard, as many of the action assemblages are so frenetic as to be nothing more than a continuous blur on the screen. And the writers have peppered the dialogue with anachronistic references to give the impression of being hip and current. All that does it make it seem cheesy enough to stock a Hickory Farms store. A lot of the CGI looks flat and painted, which it is, but that also makes it seem lifeless and phony, which it also is.
The film seems to have been poised to spawn a series of sequels, but its lackluster performance over the Memorial Day weekend may dictate otherwise… which is a good thing for all of us. The last thing moviegoers need is another sequel to an already lame starter film.
The PG-13 rated Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is currently wearing out its welcome at theatres everywhere.