Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Cast:
Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson
Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth
Douglas Smith as Tyson
Leven Rambin as Clarisse
Brandon T. Jackson as Grover
Jake Abel as Luke
Anthony Head as Chiron
Stanley Tucci as Mr. D
Connor Dunn as Tereus
Paloma Kwiatkowski as Thalia
Nathan Fillion as Hermes

Directed by Thor Freudenthal

Summary:
“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” has a few fun action sequences, but weak characters and plot leave it with little to offer to anyone over 12.

Story:
“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” is based on the novel by Rick Riordan.

Sometime after the first film, Percy Jackson and his friends continue to train at the camp for demigods. But Percy’s starting to doubt himself, especially as rival Clarisse goes out of her way to bully him. Maybe saving Olympus was just a fluke? And maybe he has to rely on his friends since he may have no real talent of his own?

Percy’s doubt is interrupted when the camp is attacked and the magical tree that generates its protective barrier is sickened. The attack is led by Luke who, it turns out, wasn’t killed in the first film. As the magical tree begins to die, Percy and his friends discover that the only thing that may save it is the Golden Fleece located in the Sea of Monsters (i.e. the Bermuda Triangle). But Percy, Grover, Annabeth, and Percy’s newly discovered cyclops half-brother Tyson will have to risk life and limb to recover it.

“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” is rated PG for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language

What Worked:
The best thing in “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” is easily the action. It’s a lot of fun to see monsters from Greek mythology terrorizing our heroes in modern settings. You see a mechanical bull destroy the demigod camp, a massive sea creature devour ships, an attacking giant Cyclops, and more. It was the highlight of the first film and it remains the highlight of the sequel. Combine that action with some pretty good 3D and you have a mildly entertaining popcorn flick.

The cameos are another highlight of the latest Percy Jackson film. Nathan Fillion appears as Hermes and provides some much needed comic relief. He throws yet another modern twist on Greek mythology by playing a UPS executive (Get it? He’s the messenger of the gods.) Stanley Tucci also has a small role as Mr. D, or the god Dionysus, the god of wine. He’s one of the headmasters of the demigod school and has some fun interaction with Percy and the crew while he rocks yet another impressive wig. Tucci does look a tad like Ron Jeremy which is unsettling, but I think that’s what he was going for.

I took my two young sons to this film. Only the older one had read the books, but both were quite happy with the movie. I must admit that I was looking for something more substantial, but if I was going to have to sit through a movie geared for kids, this at least kept me somewhat engaged.

What Didn’t Work:
While “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” does have some highlights, it is ultimately quite bland. Percy is kind of dull as a character on the hero’s journey. Grover, the main comic relief of the first film, is largely absent from this sequel. Conflict with Annabeth is now substituted by conflict with Clarisse, and she’s largely unlikable. And the new Cyclops half brother Tyson is simply a mild-mannered oaf with little depth. Combine the bland characters with a very basic plot and you have a story that serves little purpose other than linking action scenes together.

The first movie was compared to Harry Potter a lot. And while that was OK on the first outing, nothing is done to distance it from the Potterverse in the sequel. In fact, it seems more like a Harry Potter rip-off now. You have the obvious comparisons between the demigod camp and Hogwarts. You have ineffective adult instructors. You have the trio of teens breaking the rules to go on a quest to save the school. You even have a magical taxicab that draws obvious comparisons to the knight bus in Harry Potter. These increasing numbers of similarities make it all seem very familiar and very done to death.

As fun as some of the special effects were, some of them just made you question why they even bothered. Hermes carries a staff with a couple of bickering CG animated snakes. They’re painful to listen to but thankfully short-lived. The other scene with the Gray Sisters and the taxicab was also incredibly overdone and, as previously described, unoriginal. The witches are played by Yvette Nicole Brown (from “Community”), Missi Pyle, and Mary Birdsong, but their talents are not put to good use here. Later in the film, Clarisse captains a Civil War era steam ship crewed by zombies that is actually pretty cool. But the zombies are so unthreatening that you can’t help but think a great opportunity was missed. (And why are there zombies in a movie about Greek mythology? Surely there was another option!) Anyway, the movie is filled with hits and misses and these are some of the misses.

The Bottom Line:
I’d only recommend “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” to fans of the book and anyone 12 and under. Parents will find it tolerable family fare if you have to entertain the kiddies over the summer, but it is overall pretty forgettable.

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