Percy Jackson turns into a wimpy geek

SINGAPORE - Movie Review. Fantasy-adventure.


106 minutes/In Cinemas/ 2.5 Stars

The story: Monsters attack Camp Half-Blood, the only safe place for demi-gods like Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), son of the Greek god Poseidon. To save the camp, Percy and his friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) must head to the treacherous Sea Of Monsters and find the magical Golden Fleece.

This sequel to the 2010 Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief sets sail promisingly, but eventually leaves fans with a sinking feeling.

The opening voice-over and high-octane action sequences quickly re-introduce the zany world created by novelist Rick Riordan, a space where Greek myths meet modern-day fantasy and pocket pens unfold into unbreakable swords.

At a summer camp like no other, the offspring of Greek gods and human men and women run crushing obstacle courses under the watchful eyes of centaur teachers.

At first, it seems that director Thor Freudenthal has found the magic formula that propelled similar teen adventures such as the Harry Potter franchise to multi-million-dollar takings at the box office.

Unfortunately, he turns out to be inspired more by his 2010 hit for pre-teens, Diary Of A Wimpy Kid. Percy too is now transformed from budding epic hero into wimpy geek worrying about whether he has lost his mojo.

Lacklustre dialogue and a low-energy performance lead viewers to root instead for his arch-rival, Clarisse, played with enchantingly perky meanness by Leven Rambin.

Last seen as a bloodthirsty teen killer in last year's The Hunger Games, she delivers a brilliant performance as the military-mad daughter of the war god Ares.

Daddario is another grave disappointment. Set up in the last movie as the quick-thinking daughter of Athena, she is now reduced to a pretty blonde filler whose main role is to hug the hero and root for him without reason.

This is a movie awash with wasted potential. Riordan created a world where Hermes, the Greek messenger god, runs an overnight shipping business, but so much dead time elapses between each tongue-in-cheek fantasy sequence that such fascinating strands hang loose instead of being woven into a tight web.

Enthusiastic performances from the minor characters rescue fading audience interest. Jackson as the goat-legged satyr Grover steals the show whenever he is allowed dialogue and is beaten only by Douglas Smith as Tyson, the shy newcomer who desperately wants to be Percy's best friend.

They deserved more screen-time, especially when movies in this genre win fans with fun ensemble performances rather than extended focus on one hero.

It is particularly disappointing that more was not made of established actors such as character actor Stanley Tucci as the wine-loving Mr D - based on the Greek god of the grape, Dionysus - or Anthony Stewart Head as the centaur Chiron, when he won thousands of hearts in another mentor role: Giles, in TV series Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.

The one bright spot is the end of the film, which introduces a new rival for the spot of top teen demi-god. Maybe viewers will get to see pulse- pounding fiery showdowns next time instead of this diluted romp.

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