RATING |

In "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," palace treachery has warring princes trying to figure out who killed their father and king.

Suspects include buff and boyish hero Jake Gyllenhaal, some British actors you've never heard of, and Ben Kingsley, sporting a goatee and black eyeliner.

You really shouldn't need more than one guess. Even without the Maybelline, you know it's Sir Baldie, who since Gandhi has been playing one bastard after another, and with such brio it's almost impossible to imagine he once embodied the principle of nonviolence.

As for the principle of anti-colonialism, well, nobody's perfect, and "Prince of Persia" observes the honored, if not honorable, tradition of portraying all ancient ruling elites (Greek, Egyptian, Persian) as British.

Even Gyllenhaal has adopted a British accent to play Dastan, and has actually taken the time to learn a working-class accent that matches his character's original status in Persian society.

Dastan is the Tom Hagen of the Persian court, yanked out of the gutter by the king and raised as a true brother to the eldest and heir apparent Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and the bellicose Tus (Richard Coyle).

Dastan plays a key role in a victory over the city ruled by a beautiful princess (Gemma Arterton), and during the VIP after-party the king is assassinated.

Fall guy Dastan flees with the defeated princess, who's secretly watching over a sacred dagger that enables the holder to travel backward in time. Hey, that could come in handy!

It's lavish matinee hokum, and classic Jerry Bruckheimer, and though the "Prince of Persia" brand derives from a video game, the movie is an obvious reworking of Bruckheimer's "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise - young man of ignoble birth flirts with an aristocrat and chases some magical relic, with rolling dunes instead of rolling waves.

Missing, though, is the comic wild-card that Johnny Depp provided in "Pirates," or indeed any unpredictable new element that would distinguish "Prince" amid the busy summer schedule.

Director Mike Newell doesn't just steal from "Pirates" - he borrows the Pierre Morel stunts from "District B13" and an Arab whip-master who goes all the way back to the first Indiana Jones.

Still, for tween boys and adventure junkies, it's wholesome (it bears the Disney brand), lighter than "Robin Hood" and apparently more respectful of regional culture than "Sex in the City 2."

Although so, apparently, was "The Mummy."

Or Hope and Crosby "On the Road to Morocco."

Or "Ishtar."