Über producer Jerry Bruckheimer draws his inspiration from many places. He makes movies based on video games, amusement park rides, and toys. One day perhaps he’ll make one based on a bed spring, and you know what? It’ll be successful. The guy is genetically programmed to make movies that make money. His latest blockbuster-in-the-waiting is “The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” the action-adventure that hopes to make Jake Gyllenhaal (and his finely sculpted abs) the next Steve Reeves.
Based on the video game, the action packed story starts when Dastan is still a parkour practicing preteen peasant who out smarts the king’s guards and earns himself a spot in the royal household. Cut to many years later. Dastan is now a full grown man who looks a lot like “Brokeback Mountain” star Jake Gyllenhaal. He’s a bit on the wild side, but when he uses ancient firebombing techniques and slo mo to defeat enemy forces his reward is to be treated like a traitor and sent into exile. With the help of Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and a crafty ostrich jockey (Alfred Molina) he might be able to prove his innocence and prevent the mystical Dagger of Time—releasing sand from the hilt of the knife turns back time and turns Dastan into a cool looking special effect—from falling into the wrong hands. Along the way there are double crosses, much videogame action and, of course, a love match. That Princess Tamina. Jake just can’t quit her.
This is the movie I’m sure Gyllenhaal’s management hopes does for him what “Pirates of the Caribbean” did for Johnny Depp, that is, get Bruckheimerized. Like he did for Will Smith, Nic Cage and Depp, all actors best known for doing risky character parts, Bruckheimer’s magic may turn him into household (although still difficult to spell) name. Will it work? Probably. Maybe. Who knows? Gyllenhaal is already a respected actor, and does what he can to emerge from this sword and sandal showdown with as much dignity intact as possible, but the movie and his character don’t have the same kind of verve that, say, Johnny Depp showed in the first “PotC.” Dastan is a big action role but aside from the odd emotional moment Gyllenhaal never really makes the role his own, in the way that Depp made Captain Jack Sparrow into a character that sold Halloween costumes and inspired the guy at the desk next to yours to do bad pirate impressions for weeks after seeing the movie. Savvy?
What it does have is lots of action. The camera NEVER stops moving and when “Prince of Persia”—the character and the movie—is flip, flop and flying it is campy good fun. Gyllenhaal is literally crawling the walls in a display of physical prowess (and some pretty cool parkour) that’ll make your eyeballs dance, but when the story goes into the Sands of Time Mythology ™, or should that be mumbi jumbo, it’ll make your previously watusi-ing eyeballs glaze over. The crazy time shifting folklore and hopelessly silly solution to the sands situation slows the movie down to a shuffle and is only saved by Sir Ben Kingsley’s eye-rolling pantomime.
“The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” is typical Bruckheimer bombast. It’s a huge movie with big battle scenes, a love story, a few laughs (some intentional, some not) and even a flock of ostriches. It has everything you want from a summer blockbuster except really memorable characters or a noteworthy story.