Cast’s energy makes ‘Lightning Thief’ fun

Published On:
Monday, February 15, 2010
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“Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”
Starring: Logan Lerman, Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman
Pitchforks: 4 out of 5 pitchforks
Rating: PG

Given some of the recent failed attempts to mimic the Harry Potter franchise (for example, “The Seeker,” “Eragon” and “The Vampire’s Assistant”), I wasn’t eagerly awaiting the release of “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” I’m happy to say, however, that “The Lightning Thief” is a lot more exciting and fun than the aforementioned films.

This might have to do with the fact that it was made by the director of the first two ‘Harry Potter’ films, Christopher Columbus. After making the dismal and unwatchable “I Love You Beth Cooper” last year, Columbus returns with a film that’s as whimsical as his two ‘Potter’ pictures and as inventive as his earlier work in “Gremlins” and “The Goonies.”

Newcomer Logan Lerman plays the title character Percy Jackson, a seemingly average teenager who can remain underwater for extensive periods of time. Percy soon discovers that he is the son of Greek diety Poseidon, God of the Sea.

When Zeus’s lighting bolt is stolen, the gods accuse Percy of the theft. After Percy’s mortal mother, played by Catherine Keener, is taken hostage by Hades, Percy sets out to rescue her. Along the way, Percy is accompanied by his best pal, Grover, a half-boy, half-goat played by Brandon T. Jackson and Annabeth, the daughter of Athena, played by Alexandra Daddario.

It’s needless to say that this entire plot is ridiculous, and at times just plain silly. The reason that “The Lightning Thief” works, though, is because it never takes itself too seriously.

Rather, Columbus and screenwriter Craig Titley acknowledge how goofy the story is and just have fun with it. “The Lightning Thief” is the rare fantasy adventure that’s willing to wink at the camera with a down-to-earth sense of humor. Besides, I don’t think any of the kids who go see the movie will question its logicality.

Lerman, Jackson and Daddario all demonstrate great presence as the three leads. But some of the supporting performances from Uma Thurman as Medusa and Sean Bean as Zeus range from campy to simply overacting. However, we do get some excellent work from Steve Coogan as Hades and Rosario Dawson as Persephone when the heroes travel to the underworld, which is located in — where else? — Hollywood, Calif. Coogan as the lord of the underworld is perhaps the strangest casting decision since Vince Vaughn portrayed Norman Bates in the remake of “Psycho.” In some bizarre way, though, the performance actually works.

What elevates “The Lightning Thief” is its well-rounded characters and sense of awe. As opposed to the teenagers in those “Twilight” movies, Percy and his friends have genuine personalities and feelings. Unlike Bella Swan, Percy is amazed by the mystical world he is swept into and acknowledges the extraordinary situations he is in. He makes for a surprisingly compelling protagonist who is rebellious, boastful and easy to root for.

“Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” is, in the purest sense, just plain fun. Columbus has crafted a wonderful looking movie with inspired art direction and effects. The action sequences are exciting and full of whimsy.

But the reason why “The Lightning Thief” ultimately succeeds is the chemistry between the three highly appealing stars. The film is so good that I hope it’s a hit so that the studio will be obligated to adapt the other four “Percy Jackson” books into features.

Maybe I’ll even check out some of the novels the next time I’m in a bookstore.

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