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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Walt Disney Studios, PG-13)

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The audience is subjected to such fast-paced editing that a clear understanding of what we are supposed to be seeing is impossible.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is so terrifically awful that you have to admire the sheer arrogance of the filmmakers and the hollow shell of a movie that they have shat out. Think of it as the bastard spawn of Jerry Bruckheimer’s steroid-ridden wet dreams and Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead sans humility or self-deprecation.

It’s challenging to craft a review of Prince of Persia because there is very little to critique, as the movie barely qualifies as such and offers very little entertainment value. Watching the movie, you can almost see how the action sequences were plotted out first then the holes were filled in with absurd dialogue and a very thin excuse for a story. Why Disney Studios thought this video game adaptation would work is unfathomable. Resident Evil, Doom, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Street Fighter: all of these have been abysmal adaptations and yet studios are still trying to make it work. Come to think of it, Mortal Kombat was about on the same level of ridiculousness as Prince of Persia, but back then it was a relatively new concept and therefore had the allure of novelty.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Disney once again showcases their ethnocentric attitudes toward any cultures that aren’t Judeo-Christian by casting Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan, the hero of the video game, er, movie. Apparently all he needs is a slight tan and we are expected to accept him as a Persian prince-turned-outlaw. With this casting, it’s hard not to think of the long Hollywood history of casting white actors in roles that should have been given to actors of the appropriate race. How can we look at Gyllenhaal without thinking of John Wayne as Genghis Khan or Charlton Heston as a Mexican detective in Touch of Evil?

Director Mike Newell, who once upon a time gave us the wonderful Four Weddings and a Funeral, barely manages to hold the action together as the characters jump from level to level in the game, er, movie. Newell is totally incapable of capturing the continuous action sequences with any comprehensible vision. Instead, the audience is subjected to such fast-paced editing that a clear understanding of what we are supposed to be seeing is impossible.

Since very little story is needed in a video game, the screenwriting team has created a frustratingly convoluted back story about a magical dagger handed down from the gods that allows the holder to travel back in time. And there is a princess who is sworn to protect the dagger at all costs. And the sand in the dagger is from a sandstorm that was supposed to wipe out all humanity. And if all the sand from its source is released, the world will be destroyed. There’s more, but that pretty well hits the highlights.

Gyllenhaal is embarrassing as the prince who is accused of murdering his father and then forced to clear his name. The entire cast speaks with English accents (who knew that’s how Persians sound?), but Gyllenhaal’s is somewhere between English, Irish and occasionally Cockney. Apparently the supposed danger all around him doesn’t affect his good humor because he is smiling and cracking jokes for nearly the entire movie.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is ludicrous and insulting and though it is sure to have miserable box office earnings, the inevitable sequels promise more schlock from Gyllenhaal and Co. within the next few years. | Matthew F. Newlin

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