'Prince of Persia': Entertaining but not worth repeating

Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2010

Somehow, Jake Gyllenhaal has gone from awkward teen ("Donnie Darko") to hunky-heartthrob in his current role as Prince Dastan in "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time." He has pulled this off despite the fact that spelling his last name is a riskier proposition even than crossing paths with Ben Roethlisberger late at night in a seedy bar. (Seriously, isn't there some unwritten Hollywood rule that actors change their names when they have last names like, ah, Gyllenhaal? And we have two of them thanks to Jake's sister, Maggie!) Certainly, Ben Kingsley has been acting the hell out of roles for decades and he is always a welcome addition as a backstabbing, treacherous villain (he plays Dastan's evil Uncle Nizam in "Prince"). Alfred Molina, too, has become a staple in movies both big and small of late - usually in a supporting role like the one he has as a sarcastic Sheik in "Prince."

There are definitely some recognizable names in the credits of "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time." For me, though, one name supersedes all others in terms of importance, and it is not one you will find in the cast.

Jerry Bruckheimer. With his name attached, there are expectations. Bruckheimer has been involved with a staggering amount of films, but when it comes to the action-adventure genre there is nobody else on his level. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, the "National Treasure" franchise, "Armageddon," "Con Air," "Enemy of the State," and "Gone in Sixty Seconds" are all movies that Bruckheimer's production company made; they're also all movies that even the snootiest of snooty would have to admit are entertaining. They might be silly and they might be ridiculous but Bruckheimer films always entertain.

With his name in the credits, the this-movie-is-based-on-a-video-game worries are automatically tempered a bit. So what if you don't know who Gemma Arterton (Princess Tamina) is? Bruckheimer has earned our trust.

Until he loses it, of course.

The story of Prince Dastan is mostly a one-trick pony; there exists a dagger that allows its holder to go back in time with the push of a jewel on its handle. And only the holder is aware of the happening. If there is any confusion, just hang in there until Dastan figures it out. When he does, he pretty much reads it from the video game manual. Everything else revolves around that dagger and "the sands of time" that empower it.

Most importantly, Kingsley's Nizam knows about the dagger and he is hell-bent on undoing some things (appropriately, being the villain, he wants to undo the one good thing he did in his childhood that lead to his brother - and not him - becoming King of Persia). What screenwriters Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro, and Carlo Bernard wind up giving us is an adventure that is driven by a villain trying to destroy the world and our hero Dastan racing to stop him. It is fed to us at a quick pace, and the drama of family betrayal, murder, and the possible end of the world is enough to keep it entertaining. The screenplay is commendable, actually, when the source material is taken into consideration.

Director Mike Newell is capable enough with the action sequences, and Gyllenhaal and Arterton have enough chemistry to avoid ruining the movie. It is entertaining; in that regard it is worthy of the Bruckheimer label. Yet, I'm not antsy for a sequel (like I was after the first "Pirates"), and I don't plan to add "Prince" to the home library alongside "Gone in Sixty Seconds" and "Armageddon."

I still trust Bruckheimer (as long as he does not push it with a "Prince" sequel).

• Check out Carson's movie blog at www.juneaublogger.com/movies.

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