GENRE: Harry Potter wannabe
THE PITCH: Dyslexic teen Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) discovers his father was actually the Greek deity Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). After the theft of Zeus’ “master bolt,” Percy finds himself embroiled in a conflict between gods, monsters and a summer camp populated with “half-bloods.”
MONEY SHOTS: Percy first learns of the reality of Greek myths when one of his teachers turns into a wicked harpy. As the son of the sea god, Percy discovers his neat-o water powers that can heal injuries and make waves, literally. Percy and his sidekicks, ass-kicking Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and goat-legged Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), fight a reasonably awesome Hydra at the Nashville Parthenon. Hades’ volcanic city looks like a really cool video game setting.
WORST LINES, IN GENERAL: Grover’s comic relief jokes sound like a middle-aged screenwriter’s idea of how teenagers talk: “This place is officially dope!” “It’s like High School without the Musical,” etc. And when Grover bleats like a goat, well, part of you will die inside.
WORST LINE, SPECIFICALLY: “That’s amazing. A complete replica of the Parthenon in Nashville,” Annabeth remarks on their arrival. Come on, she wouldn’t say “in Nashville” while they’re actually in Nashville.
STUNT CASTING: Steve Coogan borrows traits from his rock roadie character Tommy Saxondale for his portrayal of Hades as a heavy metal icon. Uma Thurman plays serpent-tressed Medusa as an evil fashionista. As Percy’s teacher Chiron, Pierce Brosnan looks cool with long hair, and pretty silly with a centaur’s body. Actual Greek person Melina Kanakaredes plays Athena.
FASHION STATEMENTS: A pair of flying Converse high-tops with wings provide some of the film’s worst special effects – which is no mean feat here. As a satyr, Grover walks around with fur-covered legs, but his pantslessness makes me uncomfortable. The kids at Camp Half-Blood wear those Greek helmets from 300 and otherwise look like extras from a Narnia movie.
BODY COUNT: Technically there aren’t any fatalities, but kids might be upset when a sympathetic grown-up disintegrates (temporarily) and a human bystander gets turned to stone. If you want to pick nits, the underworld is full of dead people, but they’re basically a faceless horde.
BETTER THAN THE BOOK? By Zeus’ beard, no. Though initially derivative of Harry Potter (down to the disembodied, Voldemort-like villain not mentioned in the film), Rick Riordan’s series features likeable characters, compelling action scenes, a breezy sense of humor and a witty conception of Greek deities in 21st-century America, but none of that survives translation to the big screen.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Chris Columbus, who previously directed the first two Harry Potter movies, clearly hopes lightning will strike twice with Percy Jackson. But if Columbus’ Harry Potter films were too faithful to the source, Percy Jackson takes too many liberties and dumbs down a book that had plenty of potential to charm. Daddario’s warrior-princess performance makes a strong impression and some of the slumming A-listers like Coogan will emerge unscathed. If the Greek pantheon were real, they surely would have smitten the filmmakers for their less-than-divine treatment of Riordan’s book.
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