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Dagger of Mass Deception: Prince of Persia proves that some video games are better left alone 

Joining the ranks of flicks vying for worst movie of the year award is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Persia is like a bad combo of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Mummy.

click to enlarge film_princeofpersia.jpg

Joining the ranks of flicks vying for worst movie of the year award is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Persia is like a bad combo of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Mummy. Making Disney adventures out of a videogame is a testament to producer Bruckheimer's money-making schemes, but I can only assume that this is the most boring video game ever.

Beginning with a credo of destiny mumbo jumbo, this sword-and-sandal adventure takes place in the golden-hued sixth-century Persian Empire (now Iran) and focuses on the trials and tribulations of Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), an orphan plucked from the streets by a king (Ronald Pickup). In an only thinly veiled metaphor, the Persians invade a holy city to seize weapons of less-than-mass destruction (fancy swords) on false pretenses and bad intelligence. Thrown into the mix are Dastan's two stepbrothers, Garsiv and Tus (Toby Kebbell/ Richard Coyle) and their evil uncle (Ben Kinglsey). The plot hinges on a time machine-like dagger; one press of a button on the handle sends the holder back in time... or time goes back... or time spins around in a smoldering golden whirlwind. Yes, it's that confusing. The dagger comes in to play when Princess "pouty lips" Tamina (Gemma Atherton) is captured then escapes. Treacherous deceit and dagger pursuit ensues.

Relying on springboard-martial-arts acrobatics, director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Donnie Brasco) tries to deliver a throwback to Douglas Fairbanks movies. I used to love this kind of stuff when I was a kid, but I think the high-tech wizardry and the Jackie Chan-like moves will be viewed as old hat by most kids. Every action scene that seemed like it mattered was interrupted by jump cuts to a few minutes later. Nothing really gels. The part when the dagger sends things back into time is so confusingly shot that it almost defies description: a fiery cyclone of squiggly golden particles, then some kind of flashback superimposed over a flash forward and then back to real time with creepy montage footage of previous scenes surrounded by flames.

The writing was equally to blame. Dull interaction between the principle characters weighs down any attempt at humor. The characters summarize all the action to date every chance they get.

Ever since the goofy Bubble Boy role, Gyllenhaal has been trying to reinvent himself. We've seen him as the hateful dick in Jarhead and making out with Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. Here, Jake is sorely miscast. He looks good and buff, but his facial expressions belie his acting instincts - he's too "indie" to come off as Errol Flynn. Reduced to reaction shots, he smirks and rolls his eyes in a way that's too small for this big production. We need to see more bravado, not wimpy side glances and an inconsistent British accent. Then there's Alfred Molina hamming it up like he walked onstage as Falstaff, bellowing contemporary dialogue about being a small businessman and avoiding paying taxes. Ben Kingsley is utterly wasted, merely sleepwalking in tons of mascara while grimacing with his King of Siam look. The now apparently typecast Atherton (Clash of the Titans) actually spices things up once in a while, if that tells you anything.

The Middle Eastern-flair music with a thousand bouzoukis is way over the top. The sentimentally sappy "Born Free" theme music is laughable and the credits' Celtic ballad sung by Alanis Morrisette made as much sense as the time traveling dagger. Unfortunately, Prince of Persia isn't "so-bad-its-good." Rather, it's a stretch of the imagination and a big waste of time. I was never so thankful when a movie was over. The sands of time be damned! I wouldn't want to relive this one.

Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kinglsey, Alfred Molina, Gemma Atherton
Directed by Mike Newell
Rated PG-13

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