Children’s movies have a bad reputation for their awful dialogue and screeching onscreen pandemonium, but with the success of the Harry Potter film franchise, it seems as though the bar has been set higher. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief (also based on a popular kid’s book series) is clearly trying to feed off some of that good will, and it’s actually largely successful.
Percy (Logan Lerman) is a dyslexic misfit whose mom (Catherine Keener) is dating a boozy loser. But he soon finds out that his social inadequacy is actually a result of the fact that his father is Poseidon, and that Percy himself is a demi-god. The gods have accused him of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt, and Percy must find the real thief to avoid all-out warfare.
The script is certainly not up to par with the Potter series, but the likeable young cast all do quite a respectable job. Lerman, who first caught my attention for his great work in 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma, gives an appealing performance in his first lead role. But it’s Brandon T. Jackson, playing Percy’s protector, Grover, who steals the film with his comedic charms. Sean Bean, Steve Coogan, and Uma Thurman also all do a great job in their small mythological roles.
Another thing about The Lightening Thief that really worked was the real-world element of the story. Percy and his new found friends embark on a cross-country road trip, which is a blast. Greek mythology is a tough sell in this technology-obsessed world, but director Chris Columbus does a good job of somehow making it all feel current.
Young fans will delight in delight in this smart, fast-paced adventure story, and it makes for a surprisingly enjoyable ride for older audiences who are unfamiliar with the books. The mythological links occasionally feel a bit clumsy, but for the sheer amount of fun that this film offers, it’s certainly worth setting your disbelief aside and getting caught up in its charm.