INSPIRED by the best-selling video games series, Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time is a rollicking escapade which marries gorgeous Moroccan locations with state-of-the- art visual effects.
The time-bending storyline of Mike Newell’s big-budget adventure incorporates a romantic subplot to appeal to female audiences who might otherwise give this testosterone-heavy romp a wide berth.
The casting of a buffed-up Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role will also prove a draw as the Oscar-nominated star of Brokeback Mountain casts aside his indie credentials to throw himself into the melee of this mindless popcorn fodder.
Physically, he is more than a match for any protracted fight sequence in Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard’s predictable script and he nails the British accent of his gung-ho hero.
However, there’s no emotional content and the flirtation with co-star Gemma Arterton remains suitably chaste so that his dashing saviour doesn’t soften his macho hunk image.
A brief prologue establishes the lineage of King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) with a visit to a Persian marketplace, where the monarch picks a street urchin called Dastan to become his surrogate son.
Fifteen years later rugged Dastan (Gyllenhaal) joins his brothers Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) as they head for a fortress controlled by Princess Tamina (Arterton) which is rumoured to be the source of weapons for the King’s enemies.
During the assault on the city defences, Dastan unwittingly acquires a mythical dagger – a powerful gift from the gods which allows the holder to reverse the flow of time.
He is then framed for the murder of his beloved father and forced to flee for his life with Tamina in tow.
Spurred on by their nefarious uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley), Tus and jealous sibling Garsiv vow to slay Dastan in revenge for their father’s murder.
Meanwhile, the outlaws encounter ostrich racing supremo Amar (Alfred Molina) and realise that the only way to unmask the real killer is to manipulate the dagger and turn back time.
Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time would be much more fun as an interactive experience, with the ability to control Dastan as he leaps and somersaults through each action-oriented’s a pedestrian affair, enlivened by the comic relief of Molina’s shyster who loses his entire enterprise, apart from one plucky bird with suicidal tendencies.
Director Newell, who previously made Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, orchestrates the set pieces with verve and he confidently melds live action elements with digital trickery.
Yet even he is powerless to stop the special effects occasionally overwhelming the screen, building to a final flourish that skirts dangerously close to the dreaded summation ‘and it was only a dream…’.