Jake Gyllenhaal, Prince of Persia

Andrew Cooper; SMPSP/Disney Enterprises and Jerry Bruckheimer

Review in a Hurry: A video game-turned-summer-movie (and soon a theme-park ride, no doubt), this adequately entertaining popcorn pic pits the titular prince (Jake Gyllenhaal) against a villain in pursuit of a mystical, time-reversing dagger. PoP packs in eye-popping action but could've used a little more swash in its buckle.

The Bigger Picture: Prince of Hollywood Jerry Bruckheimer tries to boot-y up another Pirates-like franchise with this sword-and-sandals fantasy. The high-octane adventure and high body count should please enough fans to nudge the flick toward blockbuster status, even if it doesn't (sand)storm the box office—or imagination.  

Gyllenhaal has pumped up to play princely Dastan, rescued as a boy by benevolent King Sharaman. Now a strapping warrior, Dastan and his two brothers are prompted by their Uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley) to invade the city of Alamut, believed to be hiding weapons of mass destruction—i.e., some swords. 

But something is rotten in the state of Persia, because the king is then murdered and Dastan framed for the crime. While running (and leaping and climbing and swinging) from his bros and other baddies, Dastan teams up with Alamut's snooty Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), who needs his help to safeguard an ancient dagger. A gift from the gods, the magical weapon lets the possessor turn back time or—in the wrong hands—rule the world, mwah-ha-ha-ha!

PoP never quite snaps and crackles, like the Indy or Mummy pics that have influenced it. While Gyllenhaal definitely meets the physical demands of the role, he plays boyish when he should lay on the swagger, and his bickering banter with somewhat-stiff Arterton lacks wit and palpable sexual chemistry. Other talky scenes are weighted down by plot exposition as unwieldy as sandbags.

Fortunately, some exciting and occasionally campy action sequences (Whirling Dervish assassins! Slithery CGI snakes!) sweep you away again. And when the pic threatens to get too high-minded with musings about destiny, nobility, gods and temples, Alfred Molina provides welcome levity as a tax-hating, ostrich-racing entrepreneur.  

PoP is a pleasant-enough diversion that lingers about as long as, well, sand in the wind.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Certain set pieces are so clearly based on the video game you half expect level-ups and bonus points to appear onscreen.

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