Jerry Bruckheimer and the fine folks at Disney hoped to open the money spigots again by finding the next Pirates of the Caribbean. Rather than heading back to the theme park to check out rides, they fired up their gaming console and picked out the popular Prince of Persia franchise. There have been worse ideas, but the execution here is lacking. This is no Pirates of the Caribbean.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a movie designed for stupid and inattentive people. That’s not to say that you have to be stupid or inattentive to enjoy the popcorn flick. It does have a mega-hot chick, some cool stunts, and a small amount of turn-off-your-brain fun, but it was made for the lowest common denominator, someone so dense that every plot point has to be both shown and explained, just to make sure you get it.
The decidedly non-Persian Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Dastan, the titular hero. He uses a British accent, because that’s what an American playing a Persian prince would obviously sound like, right? Dastan, who was adopted by the King of Persia (Ronald Pickup, seriously, that’s his name and he’s a Brit) is helping his adopted brothers, Tus (Richard Coyle, a Brit) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell, a Brit), and his uncle, Nazim (Ben Kingsley, a Brit), take over the city run by Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton, ditto). Supposedly they have weapons of mass destruction in hiding. That’s right, this whole movie is a political allegory. Okay, not so much.
No WMDs are found, but Dastan does find a dagger that controls time for reasons that seemed so stupid I can’t even remember them long enough to put it into words. Tamina, besides looking tanned, dewy, and hot is also charged with protecting the dagger and making sure it isn’t used to end the world. When Dastan is falsely accused of killing the King, he and Tamina go on the run with the dagger and have one of those Ross/Rachel adversarial/flirty things going back and forth across the desert as they flee from assassins, a tax-dodging ostrich-race entrepreneur (Alfred Molina, what, he’s a Brit too!), and the elements. Eventually the true villain is revealed, and it’s who you thought it was five minutes after the movie started.
That’s what I mean by saying the movie is designed for the stupid and inattentive. The villain (hint: his name rhymes with Jen Flingsley) is pretty obvious, so the big reveal is no reveal at all. When plot points happen, such as Dastan pushing a button on the dagger and time going backwards with only him realizing what happened, it’s immediately followed by Gyllenhaal saying, “If you push the button time goes backward and only the person holding it realizes what’s happening.” See, you can be a total moron and they will explain things to you. Characters always over-explain things, just so you don’t get lost if a fly happens to distract you for a second.
They also want all the cool desert sequences without the pesky problem of taking more than three minutes to get from one place to another or having any problem finding someone. TWICE, Tamina takes the dagger from Dastan and runs off, and both times he finds her with no trouble in the middle of a huge, empty desert. Despite spending what would have to be days or even weeks facing the elements, Arterton always looks clean and luscious.
Ok, ok, it’s not like this is a documentary. It’s supposed to be fun! It is, sometimes. Dastan never just jumps over something when he could do a twist-flip like an Olympic diver instead. He never runs from point A to point B without making me think of Michael, Andy, and Dwight running through Dunder-Mifflin shouting, “Parkour, Parkour!” Yeah, the whole thing is very slow-mo and CGI heavy, but it’s still cool to watch Gyllenhaal, the assassins, or the knife-throwing Seso (Steve Toussaint, a, you guessed it, Brit) fling themselves and their weapons around.
But in the end, there just isn’t enough there, there. It’s too fakey, too silly, too set up for the dunce in all of us, too insulting to our intelligence, and not funny enough (although it tries for humor) to be any threat to Captain Jack Sparrow. If you can rent it on a day when you have had a hard night, don’t want to think too much, and mostly just want to say “oooooh” and “aaaahhh,” then this might do you.
It there is one thing that Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has going for it, and there really is only one, it’s that it's a pretty visual movie. The actors are nice looking, the locations are impressive, the action sequences are professional and well edited, and the CGI makes you say “whoa” sometimes. So, if you are going to see this thing in the home-entertainment setting, you'll probably want to see it in High Def.
Disney has released the typical Blu-ray combo pack with the HD copy, DVD copy, and an electronic copy to watch on your handheld or computer. I like this grouping as, for one low price (well, one medium price anyway), you can cover all your bases. However, it’s really the HD copy that you want to watch. It’s an incredible picture that makes you feel like you really are in a desert oasis or a CGI-enhanced sandstorm or even right next to Gemma Arterton’s toned, tanned stomach. The sound is also great, and you get to hear every rumble of the soundtrack. It’s very impressive technical product.
I can’t say as much for the extras. I mean, you do get the three versions of the movie, but really the only extra included is “CineExplore: The Sands of Time.” It’s sort of an all-encompassing extra that allows you to put the movie on hold in about 40 different places and watch behind-the-scenes featurettes related (somewhat) to what you’ve just seen. They are extensive and add up to about two hours of extra material. All the actors and technical people participate, and it includes stuff like locations, how-to of the stunts, and other usual behind-the-scenes stuff.
While the ability to go from the scene itself to some information about the scene is pretty cool, you might not want to sit through the whole movie again as you watch this stuff. Unfortunately, although you can go to the extras and watch them one at a time by way of an index, you can’t push a “play all” and just watch them one after another. So, after each one, you must go back to the index and choose the next one. This is minor, but annoying, failure on the producer’s part.
Other than that, there is one deleted scene. One. Uno. That’s the only other extra. Sure, the two hours of behind-the-scenes is pretty encompassing but only one deleted scene is pretty paltry. No commentary, no bloopers, no other stuff. Just one deleted scene and 15 minutes of previews.
With the movie being no great shakes and the “CineExplore” function being good, but not great, it’s hard to recommend this package. You get a decent brain-dead summer action flick and not much more. Watch it in HD to get the most of the pretty pictures, but you'll probably want to think “rental” for this one.