MOVIE REVIEW- Mythtake: <i>Lightning Thief</i> steals your time


Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a terrible title but a boon to reviewers who get paid by the word.

Dragging out a title to establish a franchise doesn't always work. Remember Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins? The adventure never continued. And don't expect a sequel to Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant.

On the other hand, the follow-up to the original Pink Panther was A Shot in the Dark, not Pink Panther 2: The Continuing Adventures of Inspector Clouseau; and the most successful franchise of all time began with Dr. No, not Ian Fleming's James Bond 007: Dr. No. But these days Hollywood leaves nothing to chance.

Will Percy Jackson make it to series? Time will tell. There are four more Rick Riordan books to draw from. But as a movie The Lightning Thief is no Harry Potter (the same director, Chris Columbus kicked off that series) or even The Chronicles of Narnia.

Percy (Logan Lerman), 17 (five years older than he was in the book), doesn't know it, but he's a demigod, the offspring of a god (they come down from Mount Olympus occasionally to party) and a human. He's been raised by his mother (Catherine Keener) and a creepy stepfather (Joe Pantoliano).

With dyslexia and ADHD, Percy doesn't feel very godlike, but a crisis informs him of the secrets that had been known to everyone around him– even his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), who's actually his designated protector.

With less than two weeks to return Zeus' (Sean Bean) stolen lightning bolt to prevent him from waging war on Percy's father, Poseidon (Kevin McKidd), Percy reports for training to Camp Half Blood. (No, there are no princes there.)

Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), Athena's daughter, catches Percy's eye while he's learning that Grover is a satyr with the legs of a goat and the libido of a teenage boy. He hasn't earned his horns yet, but he's always horny, which should raise a red flag for some parents.

Training consists of a game of Capture the Flag. Luke (Jake Abel) picks Percy for his team, though Percy looks longingly at Annabeth as if to say, "I play for the other team." The game comes down to a fierce swordfight between Percy and Annabeth, but no one ever gets more than a scratch from all the swordplay.

Our hero has already done battle with a Fury and a Minotaur when Hades shows up to announce he's kidnapped Percy's mother and will kill her if the missing bolt isn't delivered to him. Percy thought she'd been killed by the Minotaur and didn't seem too upset about it, but now he's moved to action.

The trouble is, while everyone assumes Percy's the lightning thief, he doesn't know the first thing about it. His teacher, Prof. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan), who doubles as Chiron the centaur, offers to take him to Olympus to plead his case when he completes his training. With the impetuousness of youth, Percy decides to go directly to Hades. Annabeth and Grover go along, after the techno-savvy Luke, who is the son of Hermes, gives them all some instructions and a pair of winged sneakers. Wonder what Nike will charge to put their swoosh on those puppies?

The next section is a classic quest as the young trio has to collect three green pearls scattered around the U.S. to pay their passage, fighting a crazed Medusa (Uma Thurman) and a five-headed Hydra along the way.

The third stop is a fictitious Las Vegas casino. (If they were dealing in Roman mythology instead of Greek they could have gone to Caesar's Palace.) The location of Hades' (Steve Coogan) domain should come as no surprise, but it's a good inside joke. Rosario Dawson plays Persephone, who doesn't let her marriage to Hades stifle her attraction to Grover.

It takes too long to wrap things up after the climax, and there's yet another scene during the credits. This isn't Lord of the Freakin' Rings, after all.

Though it's not a career best for anyone, the cast is surprisingly high-quality for a relatively low-budget epic. The effects would have been good enough before Avatar raised the bar out of sight, and they make up in quantity what they lack in quality.

I had to keep reminding myself that my inner child is the movie's target, not my ostensibly adult self. Even Little Stevie didn't rave about it, but he found it tolerable. (I know he's going to grow up to be a critic.) Sometimes I relaxed and let my younger inner child watch the movie, and he got scared by some of the creatures, at least until he realized nothing could seriously harm our heroes.

The sexual stuff only confused him, but the combination of sexual innuendo, scary monsters, and threatened violence really pushes the envelope of the PG rating. I'd suggest eight to 16 as the ideal age range for seeing The Lightning Thief. Older viewers should be less than thrilled, as should (for different reasons) parents of younger viewers, and too much negative buzz could mean lightning doesn't even strike once for Percy Jackson & the Olympians.