Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chris 2010 Viewings #22: Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning Thief

US, 2010. Directed by Chris Columbus. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, Sean Bean, Rosario Dawson, Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener.

Ah, Chris Columbus. The Spielberg of hacks. The hack of whom other hacks wonder "what does that hack hack that I don't hack?" A man who wrote a promising screenplay (Gremlins) that dealt in sick and sadistic humour and then proceeded to sit in the director's chair for some of the most odious family entertainment ever made. Along the way he lucked into the first two Harry Potter movies (the mediocre first one and the almost-good second one). Percy Jackson is, from what I can gather, based on a series of books that are a shameless attempt to mimick the success of Potter. How apropos that Chris Columbus should take the reins for the film version.

Percy Jackson is a troubled youth who lives with his mom (Keener) in a NYC apartment with his smelly stepfather (Joe Pantoliano) - his smelliness is a plot point! Percy is a misfit at school - the bullies hate him, because he is hunk who doesn't fit in. He also has been diagnosed with dyslexia and ADD, and only his wheelchair bound teacher (Pierce Brosnan) and crippled comic relief black friend seem to understand him.

But Percy Jackson is no ordinary mortal! He is the son of Poseidon, god of the sea! And Brosnan is only in a wheelchair to disguise the fact that he is a centaur! And his crippled friend only walks with crutches to disguise the fact that he is a satyr! And his uncle Zeus (Sean Bean) is pissed off because he believes that Percy Jackson stole his lightning bolt and is threatening Poseidon with a war of the gods! Percy is whisked away to a summer camp for the mortal children of gods (there are quite a few) until he and his pals decide to take a road trip to collect pearls that will help them travel to the underworld and get Percy's mom back from Hades (Steve Coogan - who, for a moment, seems to be about to play the devil as a young Tommy Saxondale, but this is a Chris Columbus movie, so nothing that cool would be allowed), who has kidnapped her because he wants the lightning bolt.

It's all very involved and, if you think about any of it at all, doesn't make a lot of sense. I put it down to chopping a lot of exposition to make a book fit into a 119 minute movie. I don't know that for sure, but the few seconds I could stand to read fans of the books bitching about what was cut seems to confirm my suspicions. My six year old enjoyed it, and truthfully it never does get dull - there's always a new monster or bit of magic or celebrity cameo at each turn to keep you awake. Plus it has Uma Thurman (Medusa) and Rosario Dawson (Persephone), who are teh hott.

But really, you should just rent Coraline instead.

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