Year Released: 2010
Directed by: Mike Newell
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina
(PG-13, 115 min.)
"The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe." Joanna Macy
This is your double fudge summer sundae – sweet, indulgent, and completely insubstantial. A street urchin prince and his enemy princess as feisty as she is beautiful, not to mention mystic assassins, royal betrayal, ostrich races, and a dagger that can turn back the sands of time.
Jake Gyllenhaal, the title character, swashbuckles it up with the best of them, imbuing the fights scenes with a Cirque du Soleil touch as he ricochets off castle walls, leaps from rooftops, and swings from the rafters with nary a miss. It’s almost as if the modern art of Parkour, that French style of urban free running so aptly demonstrated in District B13 had ancient Persian roots.
While the clash of sword against sword is nearly incendiary, the sparks that really fly are generated by Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton). She is the princess of the holy city our Persian prince has just helped vanquish, but she forms an unholy alliance with him when she sees he possesses the mystic dagger she must guard.
Theirs is the sexually charged tension of classic Hollywood, from Spenser Tracy/Katherine Hepburn and John Wayne/Maureen O’hara to Indiana Jones and Marion or Han Solo and Princess Leia.
Tamina: Such a noble prince leaping to assist the fallen beauty.
Prince Dastan: Who said you are a beauty?
Tamina: There must be a reason why you can't take your eyes off me.
Alfred Molina is priceless as the vagabond Sheikh Amar, promoter of fixed Ostrich races in his desert home, Valley of the Slaves, a place with a reputation for bloodthirsty violence he has carefully nurtured in order to keep out his most fearsome enemy – the tax collector. His rant about the insatiable belly of the beast that is Greater Persia sounds oddly contemporary. I guess we must remember that sweet tea is a preferred beverage in the Middle East, that and fermented camel’s milk. Given that Molina débuted as Satipo, the treacherous guide to Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Arkalmost thirty years ago, his reappearance as another memorable rascal is more than fitting.
Ben Kingsley plays the Prince’s Uncle Nizam, a trusted mentor who may be deserving of that or not. At least one movie critic has given us sufficient warning concerning the exotically made up actor: Never trust anyone with that much mascara.
But maybe the most fun of the movie is seeing how it tweaks all matter of grumpy grownups. We have a whole contingent upset that Persians, or modern day Iranians were not cast in the film. They aren’t brown enough, according to some, with rejoinders that ancient Persians were really light-skinned Aryans. That and the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal is Jewish on his mother’s side, and possibly best known from his role in Brokeback Mountain is probably enough to keep Mahmoud Ahmadinejad away from any screenings at any rate. A very rational discussion of the race question, as opposed to my snarky take on it can be found here.
And what about the accents - either British or what Elizabeth Taylor dubbed transatlantic? And in addition to the tea party Sheikh, we have not so sly allusions to a war started over nonexistent weapons (of mass destruction), producer Jerry Bruckheimer annoying and cajoling the right and left in equal measures. Perhaps casting Gyllenhaal is also a deliciously impish reflex as well. It may upset Mahmoud, but at least one critic (John Nolte) is pleased with “Gyllenhaal, who strips away that soft, bewildered, meterosexual look and replaces it with a sparkle of wit and adventure.”
And who can’t help but smile at Disney’s audacity in basing this feature film on a 1980’s video game. That's almost as impudent as launching a franchise based on a ride from one of their theme parks.
And if nothing else, it gives certain critics grist for their mill of endless pettifogging:
The film is too orangey. It seems “lit by a heat lamp stolen from Arby’s Roast Beef.” Michael Phillips
“…just as dumb and pointless and occasionally amusing as movies based on toy robots that turn into sports cars.” Josh Levin
“Prince is a pauper of a film.” Colin Covert
I bet these guys wouldn’t even enjoy a double hot fudge sundae, with whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry on top.
What with the desert sands, the beating sun, and the stampeding ostriches, we could all do with a cool down after this flick. I might suggest several beverages to wet your whistle:
None of these are authentically Persian, however. Choose one of the above to wash down this cooling side dish, Persian Cucumber Yogurt. In no time, you’ll be ready to go out and get the bad guys again.
Persian Cucumber Yogurt
“Traditionally used as a side dish, this recipe goes well along side Persian stews and different types of Persian rice. It's similar to the Greek Tzatziki sauce. I learned this Persian recipe from my parents, and mastered it with my own twists.” Aryana
- 32 fluid ounces plain yogurt (Preferrably Caravan or Abali brands, found at Middle Eastern specialty stores)
- 1/2 cup kefir cheese (You may substitute cream cheese)
- 1 large cucumber
- 2 tablespoons mint (dried and crushed)
- 2 tablespoons basil (fresh finely chopped)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
- 2 tablespoons dried rose petals (gol-mohammadi) (optional)
- 1/2 cup walnuts (crushed) (optional)
- 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
- salt (be generous)
- 1 tablespoon black pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, mix the yogurt and kefir cheese.
Finely chop the cucumbers and add to yogurt mixture.
Add basil, mint, salt, pepper, onion powder, raisins, walnuts, and dried rose petals to the mixture.
Refrigerate for an hour and serve.
Recipe Source: Recipezaar.com