Directed by Chris Columbus
Starring Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Catherine Keener, Kevin McKidd, Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan, Alexandria Daddario, Jake Abel, Uma Thurman, Joey Pantoliano, Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson
Screenplay by Craig Titley and Joe Stillman based on the Novel by Rick Riordan
That this film is not Harry Potter is not a sin. It does have a school for kids who are more than mortal and those kids go on an adventure, but the similarities slow down there. It tends to borrow more from the Greek myths and Clash of the Titans in particular. Steven Tyler once said about the flurry of untalented rock bands coming up in the world in the late ’80’s and early 90’s, ‘you just gotta know how to steal.’ This movie, on a tweener scale, knows how to do this.
The movie starts with two Greek gods, Poseidon (McKidd) and Zeus (Bean), meeting on the Empire State Building to discuss, rather tersely, the theft of Zeus’ lightning bolt. Zeus blames Poseidon’s kid, for no particular reason, and gives an ultimatum for it to be returned before the summer solstice, or there will…be…trouble.
Cut to Percy, who only feels comfortable when underwater. He surpasses the 7 minute mark and thinks he can do more. His best friend, Grover Underwood (Jackson) believes in him. Grover has an apparent disability that forces him to use crutches. Percy has recently developed a case of dyslexia, and his life changes on a field trip, when his substitute teacher suddenly attacks him after turning into something called a fury. At this point, Grover and his Latin Teacher (Brosnan) who is also apparently disabled, come to his aid.
At this point you are granted certain reveals which I will not share. Percy, his mother and Grover flee to a destination unknown to Percy. Along the way, of course, his mother is taken from him. From his new “school,” Percy sets about righting wrongs and learning to make the most of himself. This is interrupted by a message from Hades, which sets Percy and his friends, on the advice of another school mate, to head across the country in search of his mother.
Along the way, we see mightily altered versions of Greek legends. This is a nice touch, if you don’t expect too much from it. It helps one to think of this as a starting point to delve into studying of Greek mythology, and not a place to get information for the school report. I liked their variation on Medusa (Thurman) and I appreciated Vegas being a place where you could be happily lost for 6 days…or 39 years.
The effects are decent, but more importantly, don’t serve as a distraction to the story in their cheese quotient. The only thing reminding me of the somewhat hammy effects of the first Harry Potter film were the Chuck Taylor Converse with the little wings on them. I liked the Minotaur, in particular, and the lightning bolt reminded me of the first time I touched a lit neon light.
If you can take your willing suspension of disbelief and park it in your brain for 2 hours, you will have fun. If not, you might find yourself asking, “how in the heck did Percy get the rap for stealing the lightning bolt?”
Upon seeing my daughters, ages 3 and 7, enjoy this at their own levels, I was impressed at Columbus’ ability to present the material in a way enjoyable to varying ages. The filmmakers don’t pull any cloying cheap shots and things are relatively intellectually honest as the material allows, and it does not scratch too deeply below the surface.
The myriad of cameos in this movie could serve as a distraction, but, fortunately, are quite pleasant. In particular, Steve Coogan as Hades, Rosario Dawson as Persephone and Uma Thurman as Medusa put a little fun into their efforts. Catherine Keener as a mom in distress is a bit of a stretch, but she, like others, appear to be having a good time with playful material.
It was not a coincidence that I remembered
Harryhausen’s Clash of the Titans while watching this.
This is a film I looked upon fondly from my youth that with repeated viewings as an adult, does not fare so well. Not that it is bad…just different for adults. Of course, using Medusa’s head to dispose of an enemy didn’t hurt, either.
(***1/2 out of *****)