Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

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IMDb Rating
6.6 out of 10 (view IMDb page)

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MPAA Rating:
PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.
116 Minutes
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
Mike Newell
Boaz Yakin (screenplay)
Doug Miro (screenplay)
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Weekly Volcano's Review

Rev. Adam McKinney on May 26th, 2010

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It took a scene wherein Alfred Molina tenderly discusses the emotional lives of ostriches before I realized Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was kidding. 

Here's a movie - based on a videogame, which should come as no surprise to anyone who watches the absurd opening battle scene - that really does throw just about everything at the wall, and most things actually stick. 

We begin the adventure in a crowded market in medieval Persia.  An orphan boy comes to another boy's rescue, and is subsequently chased around the market.  This scene introduces us to Prince of Persia's love affair with parkour - the utterly ridiculous practice of treating the world as an obstacle course to be leapt over.  In reality, parkour is a pretty recent creation, and it serves no practical purpose.  It's nice to see Prince of Persia's characters getting such use out of it. 

Anyway, Dastan the orphan boy is adopted by the king of Persia, who recognizes the boy's courage and awesome gymnastics moves.  Fifteen years go by, and the orphan has turned into an artfully disheveled Calvin Klein model, as played by Jake Gyllenhaal.  No one in the movie seems to sweat, except Dastan; he always has a sexy glaze all over his face and exposed biceps. 

After the Persian army invades and conquers a city they mistakenly believe to be holding weapons (presumably of mass destruction), Dastan finds himself in possession of a very special dagger.  It's at this point that the film starts, and never ceases, to be goofy as all get out. 

Here's something that's never, ever explained: Dastan is tricked into presenting the king with a robe.  Upon donning the robe, the king falls to the ground, begins writhing and making "Ack! Ack!" sounds, and smoke unconvincingly pours from his collar.  And then he's, um, dead.  Later, characters will refer to the robe as having been "poisoned."  Because, you know, clothes can be poisonous.  Very confusing. 

Dastan is now a fugitive, having been wrongfully accused of causing the king's crazy death.  He flees with Tamina (Gemma Arterton), the beautiful princess of the city just conquered.  Very soon after their departure, Dastan discovers the secret of the dagger: If you press the jewel on its handle, you can go back in time up to one minute.  Tamina needs to return the dagger to her kingdom, and she hates Dastan for having stolen it - but she's also very attracted to his glistening muscles.  It's a conundrum. 

Dastan and Tamina effectively turn into Astaire and Rogers, rarely exchanging anything other than pithy banter.  It takes them almost the entire movie to kiss and get it over with, already. 

Eventually, no one is surprised to learn that it was the king's brother (Ben Kingsley) all along who assassinated the king and seeks the dagger's power.  But story is beside the point in a movie like this.  Plot developments are shouted over shoulders as characters race from one complication to the next. 

I appreciated Prince of Persia for what it is: a goddamn mess.  Nothing makes much sense, and the film is better because of it.  Everyone speaks in pretty thick British accents, despite how obviously wrong that is.  The plentiful special effects evoke videogames; but, almost as frequently, they evoke the cheap aura of a shaky soundstage.  At times, the movie feels like the most expensive student film ever made. 

All of this without even discussing Alfred Molina's brilliant contribution.  He plays a sleazy ostrich-race promoter, and his dialogue - when not about ostriches or taxes - is a series of winking allusions to the film's supreme silliness. 

It was only a couple weeks ago that I had the misfortune of seeing the new Robin Hood.  That film made the ultimate mistake of taking itself far too seriously.  It forgot the importance of, you know, having fun. 

Maybe the experience of seeing such a dull, sullen Robin Hood is affecting the way I viewed Prince of Persia, but what of it?  Fun's fun, and Prince of Persia actually delivers on its promise of being a light, ridiculous Summer Blockbuster.  At a certain point, I found myself unable to resist its goofy energy. - Three stars 

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