Our story hinges on a dagger that can rewind time, a narrative conceit that doubles as a taunt to those who endure this cacophonous, frivolous adaptation of Ubisoft's Arabian Nights–themed video-game series. Bruckheimered to the hilt with the same rollicking period-piece cheesiness that typified the producer's (and studio Disney's) Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, this Aladdin-indebted summer spectacle charts the efforts of noble prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) to clear his name after he's fingered for his father's assassination, a mission aided by a feisty princess (Clash of the Titans beauty Gemma Arterton) and a magic blade that, fueled by divine sand, gives those who wield it the ability to travel one minute back in time. Though too sweet and amicable a presence to radiate genuine ass-kicking machismo, Gyllenhaal carries out his hero's parkour derring-do with proficiency, but director Mike Newell is ill-suited to steward such sword-and-sandal adventure. Bogged down by more leaden ripped-from-the-headlines allusions than this flippant fable can withstand, most courtesy of a hammy Alfred Molina, it's merely a cash-my-paycheck-dammit film, embodied by a disinterested Sir Ben Kingsley, whose bald head and jet-black goatee position his stodgy scoundrel as a Mini-Me Ming the Merciless.
Gyllenhaal and the knife of vengeance.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., May 28. Rated PG-13. 105 minutes.