February 2, 2011

The Prinze of Preposterousness

Don't watch Prince of Persia too closely, and it could be worth your time.

By Robb Witmer Full 

I swear that for the entire time I was watching this, I thought the star was Freddie Prinze, Jr. It may have been the Pinze-Prince connection, or that it never dawned on me that Jake Gyllenhaal would be cast in the role of action hero... Not that Prinze would have made any more sense.

But there were a lot of "Wow, where has this guy been?" -type thoughts going through my head. (IYI: Freddie Prinze, Jr.'s resume since the Scooby Doo movies is a bit sparse, but does include a writing credit on an episode of WWE Saturday Night's Main Event, so he hasn't entirely disappeared.)

Gyllenhaal, alas, is no Freddie, but that's fine. The actors in Prince of Persia are kind of inconsequential to the movie and, just like the plot and the characters, only get in the way of moving on to the next action scene.

Which are actually kind of awesome. The parkour scenes are pretty cool, even if it's never explained what it is, or where he learned it. Born with it? Sure, why not.

There's nothing to complain about in the swordplay or stabbing-death departments either, though they are decidedly gore-free. And I gotta say, there are a couple of good dick jokes for a Disney movie.

As for the plot, I've never seen a movie that was so unconcerned with how it got from one action sequence to the next. Every plot device seems to happen totally out of context, or accidentally. Mostly accidentally. I vaguely remember one scene where a character says they need some-thing or -one and another character basically says, "Oh, well, that thing or someone is right around this corner," and bam, there it was.

Maybe the scene didn't happen exactly like that. I can't really remember, since I wasn't paying close enough attention, but that's only because it doesn't matter. Getting too involved in the plot would only use the parts of your brain that should be turned off when watching movies like this.

At the end, when Gyllenhaal is explaining to his brother what has been going on the whole time, actually saying the plot out loud, the movie seems to take a moment to let it sink in so the audience can accept the preposterousness of it all. The film itself acknowledges that preposterousness throughout.

The moments that Gyllenhaal is made to look cool, or charming, or shirtlessly hunky, are done completely sincerely, but also hilariously off the mark every single time. At least a few times in these moments, Gyllenhaal seems to smirk at the camera as if to say, "Are you still watching? Yeah? Then check this out."

Can Prince of Persia compare to Road House or Only the Strong as a camp classic? Sadly, no. It's just a little too polished and Disney-fied for that. But if you are are drunk, or trying to distract a multi-generational family gathering, it might be the movie for you.

Robb Witmer Full is editor-at-large of America-Thrust.