Serviceable popcorn entertainment this Memorial Day comes in the form of the special-effects driven Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
Mike Newell's latest action-packed film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, and Alfred Molina and it works for those who like something corny as well as anachronistically free-and-easy. It will probably be most admired by those into videogames since it's been adapted from one.
Gyllenhaal's Dastan is the youngest, adopted son of Persian King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) who along with his two brothers and enterprising uncle (Kingsley) invades Alamut, a holy city.
In the vast exposition told in surface terms by a threesome lead by Boaz Yakin (writer of Havana Nights, better as director of Remember the Titans), alas, the plan goes awry. In little time, Dastan is fleeing with a local princess, Tamina, a game Arterton of Clash of the Titans, arguing about a dagger with strong temporal capabilities. Molina's capable local sheik has them back on track to the city as they attempt to prevent the kingdom from being ominously usurped.
Newell uses Jerry Bruckheimer's producing imprint to stage some elaborate set pieces with some sweeping bravura similar to large-scaled ventures like Raiders of the Lost Ark or the uber-producer's own Pirates of the Caribbean. The landscapes and action are on view for some magical earnestness even if their impression is done to mostly choppy effect.
In this conventional, ceremonial creation there is some levity especially to the characters and there interplay. Sometimes the sassy banter of a buff Gyllenhaal (Brothers), not exactly comfortable in this kind of leading role, and Arterton, different than her spiritual, guiding in the aforementioned Clash of the Titans, works as in something more pleasureable like The Mummy. They are decent together as a love on the run contrast kind of way.
As the action intensifies, it is clear that the rating is justified even if the brutality has a way of being diminished as pressured by studio executives. Bruckheimer and Newell unoriginally tap into elements of Aladdin for the young and a masterwork like Lawrence of Arabia for the old. Apparently the level of wit and goofiness is just enough to make it go down like a swig of cotton candy as it's understood about the overdone notion about following your head or heart.
A protracted The Sands of Time has some tautness and emotion to spare even if it is too implausible and cheesy for its own good. The filmmakers could have made it more viscous in the narrative and tonal departments instead of intercutting with the important why and wherefores even if it still rates as epic mindless enjoyment.