Craig's First Take: "Percy Jackson 2"

Photo Credit: Photo by Murray Close – © 2013 - Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication

Fans of Percy Jackson, and there surprisingly are some as evidenced by the green lighting of this sequel I don’t think anyone thought would happen, are probably sick of the Harry Potter comparisons. So let’s get that out of the way now. There are similarities between the two but I think at this point we can be more honest about it. “Harry” is a classic that creates a world you can get lost in. “Percy” is forgettable childs play more likely to find its audience during repeated viewings on the family channel.

Percy (Logan Lerman), the half-blood son of the God Poseidon, lives under a protective dome with other half-bloods but that peace is soon shattered when Luke (Jake Abel, the summer’s blandest villain), the half-blood, daddy-issued son of Hermes, sets a plan in motion to annihilate and rule as a new God. Percy, already feeling like a one-hit wonder as far as quests go, and friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), the later of which is a satyr, must race with Luke to reclaim a golden fleece with magic healing powers. Also along for the ride is Tyson (Douglas Smith), Percy’s Cyclops brother.

Director Chris Columbus has left the series (another “Potter” similarity), handing the reigns over to Thor Freudenthal (“Hotel for Dogs”). His film looks impressive. We get a mechanical bull with a flame-thrower in its mouth, a multi-colored sea-horse, a sequence where Percy rides a wave, and there is also a cool bit of animation to spice up mythological backstory. Less effective is his use of “Light Em Up” by Fall Out Boy to set up his fantasy world or the fact that the closest thing to awe-inspiring magic is an eye-spray for Cyclop’s.

The bigger problem here is Marc Guggenheim’s (“Green Lantern”) script. It’s hard to believe even the smallest child is going to get corny jokes about demi-god names and the constant one-eye jokes at Tyson’s expense are more annoying than funny. Lerman, who seems to be on the cusp of better things now after “Perks of Being a Wallflower, Daddario, and Jackson seem likable enough but the lack of a funny bone here makes their quieter moments seem all the quieter and far less entertaining. It’s odd that the most non-interesting thing about Percy Jackson is Percy Jackson. These stars are really let-down, especially Brendan T. Jackson, who I think is comedy relief here. He has a scene where he dresses up as a woman but it looks so oddly flat and even he seems to be so unconfident that there’s a joke here that it passes by without even a small “ha”. Thankfully Stanley Tucci, as God of Wine Dionysus, and Nathan Fillion, Hermes, take on small roles and earn some laughs.

Lackluster also defines the story. This is one of those family friendly films where even people who die are given a restart and you wonder what this half-God’s frailty is, his kryptonite? Without that then where is the danger and excitement? And speaking of family friendly, it shoe-horns in preachy messages about the importance of family without the slightest care for dramatic effect.

“Percy Jackson” has enough action and excitement to entertain young kids but don’t be surprised if your mind roams to a different quest entirely before the first hour is up, one involving hobbits, dwarves, and gollums. The trailer will undoubtedly be shown before Percy Jackson, and it is precious indeed.