Surprisingly enough, the mix turns out to be a good thing. “Prince of Persia” is an extremely satisfying action-adventure romp, populated by a worthy array of brave heroes, spunky heroines, and dastardly villains who naturally want to take over the world. It’s everything I wanted the “Clash of the Titans” remake to be earlier this year, and is an excellent bit of escapism to start the summer with.
Though the trailers hit the high points of the plot — a dagger that turns back time, Ben Kingsley’s general evilness, sexy banter between leads Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton — I won’t mention any more so as not to spoil the one or two questions the movie still manages to hold back.
Mostly, there’s action — fast-paced but not to the point where you’ll get a headache trying to follow it. Though anyone who’s played the video game will probably recognize several of the moves, they’re also familiar enough to those of us who spend a lot of time in the movie theater that knowledge of the game is completely unnecessary. (That, along with a healthy serving of actual plot, is also why “Prince of Persia” manages to be infinitely better than the last eight or so video game-based movies to hit theaters. Since there are YouTube videos that manage to be better than those movies, however, I didn’t make too much of it.)
Gyllenhaal is a reasonably virile and charming Dastan, though I’m still divided on my feelings about the longer locks he sports. Arterton, whom I was surprised to find was also the romantic lead in “Clash of the Titans,” is allowed to display quite a bit more dry wit here along with her beauty. Alfred Molina (who had one of his earliest roles in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” by the way), adds just a little Johnny Depp-like flair with a supporting turn as Sheik Amar. Though I wouldn’t have minded seeing him earlier in the movie, he has plenty of fun once he gets there.
Perhaps most important, everyone is surprisingly likeable. Though the movie does pull out a deus ex machina to help save the day, it’s to the movie’s credit that I had been hoping desperately for them to use that particular trick to make everything work out.
I also like the fact that there’s still some effort needed afterward to save the day, and though there’s no doubt who will win, I did find myself a bit breathless on occasion.
There are, of course, a few quibbles. The movie certainly won’t be winning a Best Picture Oscar, and the attempt at profundity by the beginning and end title cards is out of place enough to be a little ridiculous. The movie also takes a little while to get rolling, and if I’d been the chef in charge I might have trimmed some of the early extended flashback before serving.
All in all, though, “Prince” is just the kind of summer meal I’ve been looking for – a little spicy, a little cheesy, and more than enough adventure to keep even the hungriest movie fan satisfied.