By John Young
Updated May 19, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

STARRING Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina
WRITTEN BY Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro

Jerry Bruckheimer knew he’d get some flak for taking a 2003 videogame and trying to transform it into box office gold. ”They said the same thing about Pirates of the Caribbean,” says the producer. ”?’How could you make a movie based on a theme-park ride?’ It worked out.” We’ll say!

In the PG-13 epic Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a high priestess (Clash of the Titans‘ Gemma Arterton) struggle to keep a magical dagger, which can turn back time, from falling into the wrong hands. When bad guys pop up, Dastan must rely on acrobatic combat skills that would shame most Olympic gymnasts. ”Watching Jake rehearse his fight scenes was like watching ballet,” recalls director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Except ballet dancers don’t perform in 120-degree Moroccan heat. ”You read a guidebook about Morocco, and it says to not go anywhere near this country in July and August,” says Newell. ”Of course, we shot right through those months.”

Gyllenhaal brought more than just his physicality to the title role. ”He’s like a little Lord of Misrule,” jokes Newell, referring to the traditional English jester. ”It’s great to have a hero who doesn’t take himself too seriously, and Jake’s got a tremendous cheekiness to him. He’s a naughty boy.” With abs.