Disney’s vision of the world is reassuring and attractive. If you are looking for the dark side of life, other studios will provide that. Timeless and wholesome classics that make you feel happy are the Disney selling point. Good triumphs and scenery is gorgeous. “Prince Of Persia” is no exception to the rule and, yet again, this movie does exactly what it says on the Disney tin.
You’d have to be a Grinch not to love this. There is so much that is wonderful. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Dastan, a young man plucked from a Persian crowd by the king and then raised as a prince in the royal palace. As usual, there are no pesky parents to limit adventure. Jake’s English accent is impeccable and he really should give lessons to so many others who channel Dick Van Dyke’s classic bad accent in “Mary Poppins”.
It’s based on a video game – three actually – and a theme park ride. This is not a bad thing and the concept acquires some depth and magic in Mike Newell’s lovely take on Persia, which is strangely full of people with English accents. There is an invasion with great battle action and then we soon meet Gemma Arterton as Princess Tamina, who we already love as a Bond and St Trinian’s girl.
You get a mystical dagger, wall climbing and jumping scenes worthy of “Crouching Tiger” and really good classic bad guys. You usually know who they are, because they wear black and move like they are in a classic Western – except that this is (sort of) Eastern. It’s all about time and that sense of slightly deep subject matter lifts the whole film to a higher level.
The plot starts with an invasion. Jake and his body double look good. He has silver stuff in his hair, like Johnny Depp in “Pirates Of The Caribbean”, another franchise based on a theme park ride. Jake is framed for a crime he didn’t commit and goes on the run with Gemma, to set the world to rights. Gemma is no shrinking violet in this action heroine role.
Lots of outstanding actors give fun performances. Ronald Pickup is good as King Sharaman. Ben Kingsley is fabulous as the king’s brother, Nizam. And Alfred Molina channels the classic “Oliver” Ron Moody role as Fagin playing Sheik Omar. Gisli Om Garoasson has a great future as a sinister bad guy and Steve Toussaint as Seso has finally escaped from TV into this great big screen role.
Toby Kebbell, Richard Coyle and Reece Ritchie all stand out in the other lead parts. But the movie belongs to Jake, who earns the crown of action hero and makes you forget about Indiana Jones.
The appreciative crowd at the Stratford Picture House oohed and aahed. I thought of “Aladdin” a few times, but that’s because the way that Disney portrays Eastern magic is rooted in myths Western children grew up with. Gemma Arterton takes more from Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra than she does from Princess Jasmine.
It’s the action that will keep you glued to the screen. The fights are great and the dagger is so cool that I really, really want one of those. A fantastic energy makes this a great summer movie. I am writing this on the 30th anniversary of the birth of PacMan and it’s clear that video games have come a long way since those humble beginnings.
Six more sequels are in the Disney works. I can hardly wait. It’s occasionally dark and frightening and earns its 12-age restricted rating. Yet the standard of entertainment here is outstanding. To have seen this, “Robin Hood” and “Samson and Delilah” in one week feels like the purest of good luck.