Directed By: Steve Barron
Rating: TV Movie
Runtime: 175 minutes
Let me start by acknowledging that "Arabian Nights" was a made-for-tv movie that aired with two episodes in order to cover the 175-minute feature length. Typically, films that are made for television already have that "low-standards" stigma attached. I must say that I have been pleasantly surprised.
For starters, the film contains a strong casting including the likes of James Frain (Schahzenan / Harun al-Rashid), Jason Scott Lee (Aladdin), John Leguizamo (Genie of the Lamp / Ring), Dougray Scott (Sultan Shahryar / Amin), Rufus Sewell (Ali Baba) and James Callis (Prince Ahmed). This diverse group of talent handled each of their roles most effectively (and probably had a bit of fun as well).
"Arabian Nights" is a story within a story, which is the reason for the 175-minute runtime. Sultan Shahryar, played by Dougray Scott, has become a monstrous paranoid lunatic after his former wife nearly killed him and then ran away with his brother. Needless to say, she didn't get too far before she was knifed in the back. The Sultan's new wife, Scheherezade, played by Mili Avital, has a gift for storytelling and uses this gift to restore sanity back to the Sultan. It is through her stories that the Sultan begins to relate the tales to his own life and through these lessons, begins to get a handle on his grief, anger, paranoia, etc. Overall, the story was fun and adventurous. If you enjoy sword fights, magic, hidden treasures, flying carpets and a genie of the lamp, then you'll likely enjoy "Arabian Nights."
I give a head nod to Scott, who played a very convincing role of a deranged psychotic Sultan. His facial expressions were definitely initimidating and his actions a bit frightening at times. I was surprised that Scheherezade stuck around long enough to see if there was any semblance of a heart left in him - surely I wouldn't have. As a made-for-tv movie, I commend director Steve Barron for his work. Sure some of the sets and CGI could have used some improvement, but all in all, I enjoyed this little Arabian adventure.