Prince of Persia: More like a pauper

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PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME

By Matt Brunson

PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME

DIRECTED BY Mike Newell

STARS Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton

To say that Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time isn't as bad as other films adapted from video games is a bit like saying that day-old roadkill doesn't smell as bad as week-old roadkill. It isn't praise so much as it's looking for the silver lining in an otherwise unfortunate situation.

Certainly, Prince of Persia is far better than such wretched works as Super Mario Bros. and Resident Evil, but it's still little more than an average fantasy flick. To its credit, the action scenes are better orchestrated than what's been coming down the pike of late (e.g. Robin Hood), but little else in the film works.

The plot concerns the efforts of a buff prince (a game but miscast Jake Gyllenhaal) to aid a princess (Gemma Arterton, even more dull than in Clash of the Titans) in protecting a mystical dagger from falling into the wrong hands. The blade, you see, has the power to turn back time, although the specifics of this procedure seem to change at the writers' whims as well as sometimes allow the holder to end up at the most convenient points in time imaginable.

As expected, the film is packed with CGI effects, some more believable than others. The film is also crammed with the usual stock characters in the supporting ranks, including the money-hungry Arab (Alfred Molina) used for comic relief and the noble black sidekick (Steve Toussaint) willing to sacrifice his life so that the whites (or, in this case, whites-in-bronze-makeup) can live happily ever after. The only original characters are the ostriches, and it must be noted that they deliver the best performances.

The film takes chances with the fates of some of the characters but then serves up an ending that leaves the viewer feeling absolutely cheated. I won't reveal how this plays out, but let's just say that this device should be retired right alongside the hoary "It was all a dream."

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