Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief may have the most unfortunate movie title since Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.
It's too long, for starters. (What's the matter? Didn't have the guts to put a "Part 1" in the title?) And it indicates that the movie is about a character named Percy. Yikes.
Of course, because this is a movie about Greek mythology (though set in the present day), Percy is actually short for Perseus, the demigod who killed Medusa and rode Pegasus. Mythology - so popular with the young people today.
Still, that title still sounds like a wee bit of a marketing challenge.
But then, I'm not a parent of a kid who wants to see this movie because it's based on the first in a kids' series of adventure novels by Rick Riordan. I assume that the books are an attempt to trap the same publishing magic as J.K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter books.
I'm sure the publishers would argue about the Potter comparison, saying that the template is mythology and not magic: gods, demi-gods, furies and the like. But get serious: It's pure Harry, from the revelation that teen-age Percy has powers he never knew about to the Hogwarts-like camp where he learns to use said powers to the Dumbledore-like teacher (in this case, the centaur Chiron, played by Pierce Brosnan) who helps him achieve his destiny.
It's even directed by Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Potter films. Which means it's fast, flat and punchline-challenged, despite the presence of Brandon T. Jackson (who played the hilarious Alpa Chino in Tropic Thunder). As a satyr who has yet to earn his horns, Jackson is buried under the weight of soggy one-liners and mushy, generic dialogue.
But why should he be alone? The script by Craig Titley is all about the action sequences, with little thought to giving the dialogue even the semblance of a polish. There are plenty of opportunities for humor but the jokes just lay there, as if they'd been subjected to Medusa's stony gaze.
The plot, such as it is, concerns an impending war between Zeus (Sean Bean) and his brother, Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). Zeus' lightning bolt has been stolen and he blames Poseidon's human offspring. If it isn't returned in 14 days, by thunder ... well, you get the idea.
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