Jake Gyllenhaal battled sand in uncomfortable places hours after WW's press deadlines, but never fear! Here's the review:

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time


WW Critic's Score: 64

The good news for geeks? Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is arguably the best videogame-to-movie crossover to date.

The bad news? The summer blockbuster's competition for that title includes Hitman, Double Dragon, Super Mario Bros., Max Payne, Tomb Raider and Bloodrayne—which means calling the Jake Gyllenhaal swashbuckler the best in show is like crowning Easy Cheese the best imitation canned-cheese product at the grocer. It does the trick, but that doesn't mean it's good for you.

Playing out like Aladdin by way of Romancing the Stone with added parkour action and CGI snakes, Prince of Persia follows newly ripped Gyllenhaal's Dastan, an orphan adopted by the monarch of the Persian Empire and raised as a warrior prince. He's soon framed for a patricide by his scheming uncle (Ben Kingsley, slathered in mascara) and flees across the desert with a sassy princess (Gemma Arterton) in order to clear his name. Along the way, the pair encounters assassins, slave traders, knife-throwing brutes and bounty hunters, Indiana Jones-ish traps and scores of people with thick cockney accents. (Everybody in this version of the Middle East, in fact, talks like a Dickensian street rat or a community theater Shakespearean.)

Oh, and there's some nonsense about a magical dagger that can turn back time and a gigantic subterranean hourglass with the power to destroy humanity. And a lot of ostriches, slow-motion sword fights, foot chases and sand-intensive special effects that have looked outdated since The Mummy. What isn't in the chaos, it's worth noting, is more than a handful of actual Middle Eastern people.

Nonsense is the name of the blockbuster (video) game, and director Mike Newell—who perpetrated the weakest post-pubescent Harry Potter flick, The Goblet of Fire—keeps the action scrappy and the dialogue wooden. There are some well-conceived action sequences, including an exciting opening siege and an acrobatic whip fight, but the film hinges too much on the strained romance between Gyllenhaal and former Bond girl Arterton. Neither capable actor is able to fight through the sandstorm of clichés from turd-polishing producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Gyllenhaal—in a bid to go from the art house to action-hero superstardom—tries his damnedest to look fierce, but has a hard time shaking his gee-whizzy Jimmy Olsen persona. The star can't be blamed for any shortcomings, though, since he's simply slashing and smirking his way to the bank. Alfred Molina adds some much-needed chops to his comic-relief role as a tax-evading con artist, but every time he appears it just makes one wonder why other distinguished actors (we're looking at you, Sir Ben) couldn't have some fun munching the scenery.

Still, there's some fun lurking in Persia for those who can ignore its weak-hearted efforts to do for videogames what Pirates of the Caribbean did for theme-park rides. At least now the bar is set marginally higher than the one Jean Claude Van Damme set with his Street Fighter movie. PG-13.

Opens Friday at Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century at Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99 Stadium 11, Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18&IMAX, Cinetopia, City Center Stadium 12, Cornelius 9 Cinemas, Division Street Stadium 13, Evergreen Parkway Stadium 13, Hilltop 9 Cinema, Lloyd Center Stadium 10 Cinema, Lloyd Mall 8 Cinema, Movies On TV Stadium 16, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinemas, Sherwood Stadium 10, Tigard 11 Cinemas, and Wilsonville Stadium 9 Cinema.