It’s been a good run for Walt Disney with franchises like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “National Treasure” giving the company a couple of action staples.
Now Disney looks to continue its recent success with “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” an action film that aspires to be a big-budget blockbuster but falls short of that lofty goal. This proves to be a mindless endeavor, but not nearly as fun as it wants to be.
Based on a popular video game, “Persia” tells the story of Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), a street urchin who is adopted by the Persian king and raised as one of his three sons.
When the king dies under mysterious circumstances, Dastan is accused of the murder. He flees and joins forces with a princess named Tamina (Gemma Arterton), who has just come under attack by the Persian army, in a quest to clear his name.
Dastan quickly learns that the attack on the city and murder are connected. Someone high on the royal chain is behind a plot to gain control of a mystical weapon capable of turning back time that belongs to Tamina.
“Persia” isn’t a total loss, but the film never quite clicks despite a strong cast.
Gyllenhaal and Arterton have decent chemistry and the supporting cast is strong, including Ben Kingsley as the King’s brother and Alfred Molina, who supplies comic relief as the leader of a band of gypsies.
To his credit, director Mike Newell moves the film at a brisk pacing - clocking in at just less than two hours - but the film never quite rises above second gear.
Perhaps the problem lies with familiarity. I couldn’t help but think of other films such as “Pirates” and the “Indiana Jones” series, which covered the same material, and “Persia” paled in comparison.
Don’t get me wrong, as video game adaptations go, it is probably the best of the bunch (definitely better than the “Resident Evil” franchise). Still, as summer blockbusters go, it’s pretty pedestrian, left in the dust by recent releases such as “Iron Man 2” and “Robin Hood.”
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “The Wolfman” (B), Universal Pictures’ reboot of a classic franchise that proves to be a fun and entertaining mindless bloodbath.
Benicio Del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, an actor who returns to his childhood home in England after he learns that his brother has vanished.
Lawrence soon learns that his brother was killed by a mysterious creature and sets out to get revenge, only to get bitten and cursed by the attacker - a werewolf.
Before long, Lawrence is struggling with his new alter ego, a blood-thirsty creature that needs to feast when the moon is full.
The screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self is pretty straightforward, diving right into the story and keeping the film moving along at a brisk pace.
Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins (as Lawrence’s father, who has his own demons) and Emily Blunt (as the fiancee of Lawrence’s brother) bring added credibility to the material. Del Toro is a natural to play the lead, but Hopkins probably fares the best, with a performance that is a little over the top but not too overdone.
All the ingredients come together thanks to the direction of Joe Johnston and the makeup and visual effects of Rick Baker. The wolf transformations are cool, especially a late battle between Lawrence and the other creature responsible for his brother’s death.
I will concede, however, that “The Wolfman” can be quite cheesy; still, I found myself totally entertained. This is a film that revels in its schlock, and does so in a manner that is sure to please anyone looking for a bloody good time.
“The Wolfman” is rated R for bloody horror violence and gore and is now available on DVD.