THE SCREENING ROOM
By Bill KallayOccasionally, Jerry stumbles.
"Prince of Persia" is now available on Blu-ray.
There's no argument over the success of Mr. Bruckheimer. He's perhaps the most successful film and (possibly) television producer of all-time. No need to list his credits here. Just know I'd be a happy man if I had a "Top Gun" or "Pirates of the Caribbean" on my resume.
Jerry has a knack for chosing highly profitable projects. Certainly many could be considered no-brainers that are too quickly cut and look like they're shot for MTV in the early-90s. But no matter. Jerry will, from his career, be given an Irving Thalberg Award for his work at the tender age of 70. Just watch!
He won't get any significant awards for "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time." After trying to sit through this homage to desert epics of yore, I felt like I wanted a time shifting dagger to get those nearly two hours back. Press the back of the handle and presto!
Jake Gyllenhaal plays a former street urchin taken in by a noble king (Ronald Pickup). He gets into fast, then slow-motion chase scenes, arguments with his step brothers, gets the magical dagger, and argues with the girl he's going to eventually fall in love with, Tamina (Gemma Arterton). It's typically clichéd fare that doesn't excite and doesn't move you. How many times must we see a movie where the girl and the guy argue, then fall for each other? It can work if the leads aren't cardboard cutouts of characters we've seen so many times before. It also works if the script is well-written. Case in point: Indiana Jones and Marion in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Directed by Mike Newell, the movie is surprisingly slow paced, even for a Jerry Bruckheimer production. He's directed some of "The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones" episodes and one of the "Harry Potter" films. He does have an eye for directing action, but here it seems stilted. The action scenes, and I wish this trend would end, feature Gyllenhaal running away from somebody (this seems to happen a lot in this movie) in normal motion. Then through the wizardry of editing, and thanks in part to "300," we suddenly see him in real slow motion. This effect is tired and slows the action down unnecessarily.
Gyllenhaal is good in the film, but he doesn't have the presence or edge that good action heroes have. I don't get a sense of him losing control and pelting a bad guy within an inch of his life. Sir Ben Kingsley, who can be so good, returns in yet another lackluster movie as a lackluster villain. Come on Sir Kingsley, bring back that spit and fire from "Sexy Beast."
The whole dagger/magical sand element seemed like an excuse to sell plastic daggers at Disney's theme parks. Since the film did poorly at the box office in the U.S., I'm thinking that maybe Disney didn't transport a bunch of kids back in time.
The one thing I did notice, and Bruckheimer is guilty of this, is how much a "Walt Disney Picture" has changed. This movie isn't very violent, but it did shock me that one of the characters has his throat slashed. The PG-13 rating isn't very strong, but this scene is a little shocking, even for most kids. Luckily my own kid didn't watch this, because I think it's a pretty violent act and it would've bothered her. To each his/her own on what their kids watch. But I yearn for the days of holding back the violence in a Disney film. Walt himself portrayed violence, but it was usually safe for most audiences. Now the envelope has been pushed too far.
The Blu-ray picture is excellent. This movie does look good in high definition. The colors are rich yet natural looking. The picture is at times extremely sharp with depth. No complaints. I was hoping the film would be better and could use at least one scene as a demo for my home theater system, but maybe not.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is excellent. Currently my receiver is causing some distortion that isn't on the soundtrack. But from what I could hear, there's good definition and plenty of bass running through the subwoofer.
I'm sure Jerry will back to his true form next year when the latest "Pirates" movie is released. This past year, the poor guy hasn't done well with "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time." Better luck next year, Jerry.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © Disney. All rights reserved.