Tuesday, 10 April 2012


I was in Sainsburys on Friday afternoon with Susan picking up stuff for Easter Sunday's family tea and at the beginning of the the checkout was a display of compilation Sainsburys-only DVDs for £5.00 which included -you've guessed, haven't you. So it was an impulse buy.

Displaying bravery in the souk in front of the king, a young boy is adopted and made a prince who grows up to be Prince Jake Gyllenhall (who makes an excellent action hero) the bold warrior. On a mission with his two brothers, one of them the heir, they are conned into attacking a holy city where Priestess Gemma Arterton guards The Magic Dagger Which Turns Back Time. Framed for the killing of Noble King Ronald Pickup by -look away now because you'd never guess otherwise- Evil Uncle Ben Kingsley who couldn't look more evil if he was twirling a waxed moustache and sneering, Prince Jake runs off with Feisty Priestess Gemma with whom he has lots of fights both verbal and physical as they fall in love and have lots of adventures while trying to keep out of the clutches of Evil Uncle Ben and the two Misguided Brothers.

To be truthful I had fairly modest expectations of this movie which I am happy to say were exceeded. Gemma Arterton demonstrates that she fits the action heroine role as well as a BBC drama and really is the next Keira Knightly only without the flat chest and more talent. Alfred Molina has a great supporting role as a roguish gambling-mad sheik who sounds like he comes from the East End of London which is really very funny. Actually, as far as I can tell, all the cast bar Prince Jake are British and he has such a good English accent I thought at first that his voice was dubbed. Respect, mon! There are plenty of action scenes which are violent enough, though bloodless, to justify the 12 rating (think PG-13 for any US readers), some nice touches of humour (often courtesy of Sheik Alfred), and the soppy stuff is kept to a minimum. 

If my expectations for Prince were modest, for this one they were lower. 

For a start the back story is a pain to summarise but here goes. Merlin has three apprentices, the good, the beautiful, and the bad -Nic Cage, Monica Belluci, and Alfred (hi again!) Molina. Alfred betrays Merlin to Morgan Le Fay who kills him. Monica traps the witch in her body. Nic puts them both in the smallest Russian Doll, adding other evil magicians to the next size doll up (including Bad Apprentice Alfred) in the course of 1300 years spent looking for the child who'll be Merlin's successor. Said (10 year old) child finally turns up in Nic's magic shop in New York following a note blown on the wind which will tell him if a classmate he has a crush on wants to be his friend or (giggle) his girlfriend. In the course of their encounter, Bad Alfred gets loose and he and Good Nic get trapped in a jar for ten years.

And that's just the opening. Ten years later our young hero has become a physics nerd and he meets the girl of his childhood crush at a physics lecture at the university he attends. At the same time, Nic and Alf get loose and the film gets going with a brisk blend of action and special effects. Nic is trying to train his young apprentice and keep his mind off romance while Alfred is busy trying to kill them both, free Morgan Le Fay and end the world. It all moves along very nicely and kept me happy for the duration. There's even a nice reworking of the rampaging broom sequence from Fantasia.

Minor quibble, the two juvenile leads are completely outshone by Nic Cage, even when underplaying by his standards, and Alfred Molina, sneeringly ruthless in manner and impeccably dapper in dress. Molina is brilliant in everything he does which is just about everything except maybe playing a romantic leading man.

All in all, I got three and a half hours (not counting the extras on the DVDs) of solid entertainment for a fiver so I consider I got my money's worth. If you haven't seen either of these films, then the next time you're in Sainsburys...

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