Low-rents of Arabia

It looks like producer Jerry Bruckheimer is trying to bottle that lightning that crackles in his studio’s logo with the latest film, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” (or, better yet, Prince of Persia: Beware the Colon in the Title, For if This is Successful, We’ll Make More of ‘Em).

For just a few years ago, the producer took roughly the same formula: Leading Man Known More for Dramatic Work, Esteemed Cast, Talented Director, Lavish Sets, and Fun-Breezy Vibe  with a Plot Involving Transport of a Sacred Artifact, and crafted it around a theme-park ride.

That movie, of course, was “The Haunted Mansion,” starring Eddie Murphy.

Wait, no it wasn’t. Bruckheimer did not have a hand in that one. Obviously, it was “Pirates of the Caribbean.” “Persia” certainly owes much to “Pirates,” as well as its lesser-loved step-sibling “National Treasure (which also bears the Bruckheimer seal).

But “Persia” more resembles the immanently disposable “Scorpion King,” that Dwane “The Rock” Johnson star vehicle which managed to be both jarringly bombastic and instantly forgettable at the same time. I cannot imagine viewers becoming so involved with “Persia” that they will clamour or for a second viewing, much less a sequel.

“Prince of Persia” is not offensive to the senses like the rank “Scorpion,” but in all its bluster and bombast, it barely makes a dent. It’s a scribble in the sand by the tideline, destined to be washed out of the memory with the next ebb of new releases.

Plot is of little relevance, but for the two readers who may make their ticket purchase based on it, here’s what I could glean:

A young orphan grows up to be Jake Gyllenhaal, and through a mix of parkour, determination and fabulous hair, tries to protect a magic dagger that can somehow turn back time by varying increments. Oh, and there’s also a funny ostrich race run by Alfred Molina.

To get any more out of the film would require paying close attention, and that is not what “Persia” wants you to do. You are supposed to be impressed by the action, swept by the romance, and dazzled by the visual effects. And while a couple sequences are impressively staged, the romance with shrill lead actress Gemma Arterton is as arid as the setting, and its effects are as shoddy as spring’s maddeningly chaotic Clash of the Titans.

To Gyllenhaal’s credit, he engages more than you might expect him to, but director Mike Newell, better known for such low-key efforts as “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Mona Lisa Smile,” tries to summon every ounce of big-budget energy he brought to “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” Sadly, the cement-thick plot and rhythmless editing mar whatever he may have attempted to create.

For “Persia,” the writing is what eventually dulls and/or destroys whatever mild summer fun this exotic escapism attempts to create. The adage proves true: the pen is mightier than the sword, as the writing is ultimately what brings this potential franchise to its knees.

~ by usesoapfilm on June 1, 2010.

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