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"PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS"
(2013) (Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario) (PG)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Adventure: A demigod and his friends set off on a perilous journey to retrieve the legendary Golden Fleece in hopes that it will save their besieged camp.
PLOT:
Percy Jackson (LOGAN LERMAN) is the half-blood son of the god Poseidon and a mortal. Having already saved Mt. Olympus a while back, he's something of a heroic figure, especially since he's the only such offspring of the three main gods. That is, until Tyson (DOUGLAS SMITH) shows up at Camp Half-Blood, a protected place run by Mr. D (STANLEY TUCCI) for people like Percy, his satyr friend Grover Underwood (BRANDON T. JACKSON) and Annabeth (ALEXANDRA DADDARIO), the demigod daughter of Athena. It turns out Tyson is Percy's half brother, a Cyclops who immediately draws the disdain of Annabeth due to one of his kind killing her childhood best friend years ago.

Upon that girl's death, she was turned into a towering tree that still creates a force field of sorts around the camp. But that protection is shattered by Percy's former nemesis, Luke Castellan (JAKE ABEL), the demigod son of Hermes who's returned and talk s of a prophesy involving Percy. With the tree now dying and the camp endangered, Mr. D. sends Percy's camp rival and demigod daughter of Ares, Clarisse La Rue (LEVEN RAMBIN), to the Sea of Monsters.

It's there where it's expected she'll find the legendary Golden Fleece that could be the only thing to save the tree and thus the camp. Believing he's the one who's supposed to do that, Percy sets off with Grover, Annabeth and Tyson. But when Luke kidnaps Grover, the young half-blood must use his every resource to save his friend and stop Luke from unleashing a monstrous figure that could be the end of them all.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
If you're going to make a movie about ancient Greek gods, demigods, satyrs, Cyclopes and the legendary Golden Fleece, why not hire a god to direct it? After all, who better to understand the ins and outs of such characters and trappings, as well as the responsibilities, pitfalls and benefits of wielding such power? And so, ladies and gentleman, may I introduce to you the next director of the "Percy Jackson" film series, Thor.

Yes, he may be a Norse god now commonly associated with Marvel Comics, his own movies and those "Avengers" flicks, but as the hammer-wielding deity most associated with thunder and lightning, he's the perfect ancient god to inject some electricity into the second cinematic Jackson outing, "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters."

I'm sorry, what's that? You're saying it's Thor Freudenthal? Well, I didn't know the legend who first popularized "hammer time" had a last name, but that doesn't lessen his ability to direct a movie. Oh, I see. Mr. Freudenthal was born in Germany in the early 1970s, started in the biz doing art and animation work and later went on to helm "Hotel for Dogs" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid?"

My bad. Whatever the case and pedigree, Thor has arrived to take over the sequel and thus has now replaced the legendary Italian explorer who "discovered" the New World before going on to direct "Home Alone," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and the first adaptation of Rick Riordan's book series, "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief." Wait, that was a different Chris Columbus? Jeez Louise, how about getting a name not associated with some famous past figure or at least one that most people won't know?

Well, that would certainly apply to the title character here. Despite the first film doing decent box office business ($226 million), it didn't become the next Harry Potter and thus I'd guess most moviegoers would be hard pressed to explain who the character is or describe the plot of the first film. In fact, due to the mediocrity of "Lightning Thief," I had a hard time remembering much about it myself beyond it placing Greek mythological characters in a contemporary setting and the unintentional laughs generated by James Bond, uh, Pierce Brosnan, playing a centaur. And considering I loved those characters as a kid, the fact that the film wasn't better served as even more of a disappointment.

The same holds true here with this sequel that's okay, but not as magical or entertaining as it easily could and should have been. Somewhat loosely following Riordan's plotline, screenwriter Marc Guggenheim ("The Green Lantern") has our title character (a returning Logan Lerman) traveling to the title location with his friends (Alexandra Daddario and Brandon T. Jackson also reprising their roles) and newly discovered half-brother (Douglas Smith) in hopes of finding the Golden Fleece to save a poisoned tree that's been protecting their special camp for demigods and other such folks.

Along the way, they must contend with a villain (Jake Abel returning in that role), a hungry Cyclops, three blind taxi drivers, and even Cronus himself, with the latter appearing in a conclusion that will likely remind many a viewer of the same in "Wrath of the Titans."

Freudenthal does keep things moving along at a brisk pace, and some moments are decently staged. Yet, there are so many elements and other things thrown into the mix (such as zombie sailors on an old Confederate warship that was swallowed up in the Bermuda Triangle) that you half expect to see a kitchen sink show up at some point.

And much like my childhood fascination with the ancient Grecian mythological characters, some of my favorite monsters growing up were Cyclopes, both in the pilot for "Lost in Space" (when it was in black and white and before it went all goofy) and the magnificent "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad."

Granted, perhaps I've just grown old and today's kids will react the same way I did to seeing Ray Harryhausen's work all those years ago. Then again, back then such characters and stories of epic journeys were something magical, mysterious and awe-inspiring to behold. Considering what's available for kids nowadays and the way the non-Norse god Thor presents everything here, they might just have the same "meh" reaction as I did. Pretty much on par with the first outing, "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed August 1, 2013 / Posted August 7, 2013


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