Who's In It: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Sir Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina
The Basics: Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an honorable prince of Persia and parkour enthusiast who finds himself wrongfully accused of his adoptive father's murder. On the lam with the prickly Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) who's sworn to protect a magical dagger -- one that can take its holder back in time one full minute to change the course of history -- Dastan tries to clear his name and bring the real killer to justice by sword-fighting and wall-jumping and time-traveling his way across the desert. A realistic fact-based history lesson this ain't, so just give yourself over to the power of the Gyllenhaal and accept that ancient Persians may have had British accents and killed kings over mystical sand, and then you can enjoy the ride.
What's The Deal: Prince of Persia is A) based on a video game and B) produced by blockbuster impresario Jerry Bruckheimer, so it's more concerned with flash and high adventure than with presenting any semblance of realism. Again, it's based on a video game. A video game about a hero whose main defining characteristic is that he can jump real good. Mike Newell, a Harry Potter franchise veteran, steps up to the challenge of turning those humble origins into a blockbuster and delivers a rollicking, epic-scale franchise-starter that's equal parts intrigue, action and Gyllenhaal, with a dash of feisty romantic banter thrown in for good measure. Consider it Pirates of the Caribbean in the desert, a highly entertaining action-fantasy-romance that gives us our first truly grand-scale summer blockbuster of the year.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Action Hero (*Swoon*): Gyllenhaal carries the film with a roguish charm and physicality we haven't quite seen from him before, in the kind of romantic hero role that solidifies his swoon-worthy status. He parkours through crowded marketplaces, runs up walls, leaps from rooftops, and swings his lithe body through tiny openings -- and sometimes you can tell it's really him doing the stunts! He double-fists swords and sports a mane of gloriously battle-sweaty locks, but despite his lethal physical prowess, deep down inside he's a perfect gentleman. Also, he's an orphan (which explains his distinctly non-Persian appearance, kinda) -- and who doesn't love orphans? Put it this way: I didn't really have a Jake Gyllenhaal crush until I saw Prince of Persia, and now I'm a fully-fledged Jakey-poo devotee who will follow him to the ends of the cinematic earth. At least, until he makes Bubble Boy 2.
The Cool Action Stuff: Newell blends CG effects and practical stunts as Gyllenhaal climbs a castle wall at night with the help of long-range archers who shoot a trail of makeshift arrow carabiners just inches above his head, and then dives headfirst off a tower and MacGuyvers a pot of boiling oil to block an oncoming horde of soldiers. Later, Dastan discovers the power of the Dagger of Time as he relives the same scene multiple times to avoid being killed by an enraged Tamina.
The Slightly Silly Stuff: The sinister mystical snake-loving assassins who jump out of the clouds and shoot metal spikes. Or, as I call them, Desert Ninjas. Also, Sir Ben Kingsley's evil eye makeup. Never trust a man in eyeliner!
Best Supporting Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal's abs. No, his tan. No, his biceps. No, those big pretty puppy dog eyes that are especially adorable when he turns and calls me "princess" -- I mean, when he calls Gemma Arterton "princess." Ahem.