One Jump Ahead

The anachronistic Prince of ‘Predictability’ is sandy summer fun

With Pirates of the Caribbean captain Jerry Bruckheimer at the helm, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time offers plenty of action with snakes, sand storms, overdone gymnastics and a buffed-up Jake Gyllenhaal. The video-game-based Disney film is enjoyable enough, yet easily forgotten and irritatingly predictable.

The story follows Dastan (Gyllenhaal), a good-hearted street rat adopted by the munificent King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup). In response to a claim of weapons of mass destruction, a grown-up Dastan teams up with his foster brothers Tus and Garsiv (Richard Coyle and Toby Kebbell) to invade the Holy City of Alamut. Dastan eventually finds a mystical dagger that can rewind time and he falls for its protector, the beautiful Princess Tamina (Clash of the Titans beauty Gemma Arterton). 

Meanwhile, the King’s adviser Nizam (lazily played by Ben Kingsley) lurks in the background. Anyone who’s seen Aladdin knows by his Jafar-esque goatee and heavy eyeliner that he is evil. But this goes unnoticed as the King is murdered and the act pinned on Dastan. He flees with the Princess and the dagger, both eager to return the dangerously tempting weapon in its rightful hiding place. 

Along the way, they bicker and brush noses like trepid high school sweethearts. Their flirtatious one-liners are forced, a Bruckheimered ingredient also seen in his National Treasure franchise, but executed between Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger with more believable sass. 

But nothing is more transparent than the present-day politics that squeeze their way into fictional pre-Persia. From Alfred Molina’s comic-relief “small business” entrepreneur complaining of high taxes to the preemptive strike against weapons of mass destruction that—by golly—don’t exist after all, Sands of Time seems to fast-forward in time rather than stay put and just have some otherworldly fun. 

The story itself tries to be convoluted but remains simple thanks to the foolproof dialogue that spells out every step. Perhaps this is its video game blueprint, as the goings-on are explained amid the action. But frustratingly, the movie doesn’t give viewers a chance to exert some intelligence or enjoy an element of surprise. Replacing the void is Gyllenhaal’s overwhelming acrobatics and the Bruckheimer-team’s notorious action effects.

Director Mike Newell is no stranger to directing some action (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) but seems to miss the boat on the maturity of what this summer epic could’ve been. The kiddies will most likely love it, but the Newell/Bruckheimer flick seems to need a little extra boost. That’s too bad because Sands of Time had potential, but perhaps they should use their own dagger to reverse time and refine this youthful medieval flick into something worthy of another look.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PG-13) ★★★☆☆

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