Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Directed by: Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid)
Starring: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Douglas Smith, Leven Rambin, Brandon T. Jackson
In 2010, the Chris Columbus-directed Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief was released as a pretty apparent attempt at cashing in on the popularity of the Harry Potter series. Like so many other teen-fantasy novels turned big-budget pictures — think The Golden Compass (2007), The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) — it came and went and made little impression. What was unique about the original Percy Jackson is that it’s the most Harry Potter-ish of its kind, with its Columbus direction and story of an awkward kid finding out he’s of magical descent. But now that Harry Potter has broomsticked off into the sunset, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) is back, and more derivative than ever.
With Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, we have a fairly crass attempt at ripping off various Potter films. And this is beyond just plot, since Sea of Monsters goes as far as staging a phony Quidditch match (by way of American Gladiators) and blatantly pinching the animated flashback from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010). Now, you can do a whole lot worse than emulating Harry Potter, but there are a few issues with Sea of Monsters' approach, namely in its lack of budget (seriously, they couldn’t even afford to have Pierce Brosnan back?) and its overall tone. Since the film attempts to modernize Roman mythology (and some Greek, which it continually mixes and matches), several scenes involve CGI monsters from those myths. While some obvious thought has been put into the designs of these various beasties, Sea of Monsters simply doesn’t have the budget to make them look anything but cheesy. At best, the effects are solid, but at worst — which is the majority of the film — they look like something from the SyFy Channel.
The overall feel of the movie is hoary, postmodern snark with the occasional pop-culture reference. A fantasy film like this needs some whimsy, and Sea of Monsters is severely lacking in that department, substituting jokes about cell phones and — in one of the years more embarrassing cinematic moments — Nathan Fillion referencing Firefly. The film’s serviceable plot follows Percy’s trek to the Sea of Monsters to retrieve the Golden Fleece. But it’s also incredibly generic and lazy, as it’s contained in a script in which, for instance, the bad guy (Jake Abel, I Am Number Four) who was killed in the first film, just pops up here, excusing his demise by pointing out that no one double-checked to make sure he was dead. It’s junky teen fantasy stuff that’s perfectly harmless, but just as forgettable as its predecessor, and certainly not the Potter heir it wants to be. Rated PG for fantasy-action violence, scary images and mild language.
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