Sunday, June 6, 2010


Went up to Pittsfield Mass. to catch a flick yesterday in the Beacon, a brand new theater that from the outside doesn't look like much but inside was pure pleasure—new comfortable seats, great sound system, huge screen, great concession stand, etc.—in a part of this economically struggling little city, or big town, that is trying to revive the neighborhood (a skateboard/trick bike store across the street near a punk record store, yes vinyl, and a not bad brand new Mexican bar/restaurant, etc.).

I was taking my sons and grandson to see PRINCE OF PERSIA. None of them had been sucked in by the ads for this, but I had enough information to suspect they might dig it.

I figured it would be some kind of fast paced amusement park ride of a movie since I heard it's produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. And I knew Alfred Molina and Ben Kingsley had roles in it and figured they'd be doing what they do best in these kinds of movies, playing outrageous characters as though they're completely viable because often they are.

And I like what I've seen of Jake Gyllenhaal for the most part. I thought Heath Ledger outclassed him in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, but I admired what Gyllenhaal was tyring to do in that film. And I thought he was the best thing about BROTHERS, an otherwise failed movie for my taste. So I wanted to see how he would make the transition to pumped up action hero.

He makes it very well. He's a total kick to watch for the most part, as are the other actors, especially Molina. As in the classic Hollywood tradition of movies about any ancient empire, the actors all have British accents, including Gyllenhaal (!) which may bother some, but I took it as almost a goof on that tradition, which I assume came from the reality that back when movies first began talking, Britain still was the dominant empire in the world's consciousness, so it would make sense that rulers of empires sound like the English.

It's not great history but isn't intended to be, so the reactions from those upset that the lead actorS aren't Persian, or Iranian as they'd now be called, doesn't exactly hold up (a lot of the "English" in Hollywood flicks were really Irish or of Irish descent and therefore were actually playing their ancient and modern enemies!—though in the video game that the movie's based on the lead looks more Asian and since Asians are the least likely to have lead roles in movies I can see that objection).

But in the end this is Hollywood history, not ancient or world history. And as such it delivers. From Douglas Fairbanks' silent action epics through Errol Flynn's and Jackie Chan's, PRINCE OF PERSIA has the moves and the movement required to satisfy this genre's requirements for a couple of hours of pure escape.

My oldest son and I got some kicks from the dynamics of the film as well as from some of the humor and even its basic message of trust and the usual "doing the right thing" no matter the risk. (Other less obvious messages included some mixed political positions, like being anti-tax but also anti preemptive-war-starting-for-nonexistent-weapons, etc.). I also couldn't help thinking they made these kinds of flicks in the silent era by actually building sets with all these ancient style monumental structures and entire cities and filling them with armies and hordes that were actual extras rather than computer generated crowds and structures.

The little guys enjoyed the ride, coming away excited and trying out their own parkour moves as soon as we hit the street (actually my youngest son pulled a move inside the theater, managing to climb the inside frame of a closed metal door to the top by spreading his feet and jumping from one two-sneaker held spot to the next, if you can picture what I mean).

Don't you remember leaving an action movie matinee on a Saturday afternoon and imitating the moves of the hero on your way home? Not a bad recommendation for a movie and a little movie nostalgia, though it may require not taking the movie or yourself too seriously. Not a bad idea.


Ron said...

Look at Gyllenhall in Brothers. He doesn't stand up to Tobey Maquire's intensity, but then nobody does (it's Maquire's best performance, better than Ice Storm), and his role is really to leaven everything.

wf: neptumal

Lally said...

I have to disagree brother. Gyllenhaal was for me the best thing in Brothers and Maquire was out of his element and way over the top for my taste. So, vanilla and chocolate I guess.