★ ★ ★ ☆
Prince of Persia is a straighforward morality tale, as you would expect from a Disney film. It's special effects fail to wow, and the action sequences are not over the top. This is unusual for a movie produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Frankly, I don't see these as deficiencies. Rather than attempting to dazzle us with gigantic monsters like Clash of the Titans did, it delivered something I didn't expect: simplicity. Aside from some light tears in the fabric of space and time, the plot was pretty straightforward. A heroic prince framed for murder flees the city with a foreign princess. While unoriginal, it was very entertaining. I enjoy morally complex films as much as anyone, but sometimes a dose of plain old good vs. evil is refreshing.
I admit that I was quite skeptical going into this. There really isn't any reason to expect much from a movie based on a video game. It also scored a paltry 39% on Rotten Tomatoes. It took a mixed review from Joe Morgenstern to convince me to see this one. Within 10 minutes, I knew I made the right decision. Though I haven't played the video game that this was based on, it did have the feel I assume the game does (from what I remember of the original Nintendo game). Prince Dastan (Gyllenhaal) constantly finds himself in vexing situations. He takes stock of his surroundings, and methodically makes improbable escapes. It resembled Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes in this respect, save that the situations take place in real time.
Jake Gyllenhall continues to prove that he's more than a washed up teen actor. This is his second respectable role in the last two years (after Brothers). Gemma Arteton was well cast as the impetuous princess, and Ben Kingsley was solid as always. Alfred Molina delivered plenty of laughs as a seedy, tax evading entrepreneur. His generally informed (though hypocritical) social commentary alone was worth the price of admission.
Big budget action movies are generally made to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The goal is adequacy in every technical aspect. A few suspenseful moments, and a couple of laughs are enough to satisfy the expectations of the audience. Sadly, it's rare to even find this in a contemporary action movie. Prince of Persia is an exception. Contrary to the critical consensus, it is worth a watch.