Just say shazam
CHRIS COLUMBUS, director of the first two Harry Potter films, offers us an entertainment about an ordinary boy who, after discovering he possesses magic gifts, is transported to a remote academy for training in the mystic arts. What now? It’s as if Steven Spielberg had followed up Jaws by directing Piranha. It’s as if George Lucas had gone straight from Star Wars to Battle Beyond the Stars. You can construct your own gag.
That oddity noted, it must be admitted that Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief, an adaptation of a popular novel by Rick Riordan, is a long way from being the worst Harry Potter clone. True, it has moments of rampaging stupidity, and there’s nothing here to win over fantasyphobes. But, despite drawing its inspirations from Greek mythology, the film is agreeably unpretentious and breathlessly fast-paced.
Logan Lerman plays the titular hero, a teenager with ADHD, dyslexia and various family issues. His mom (the reliably likable Catherine Keener) is shacked up with a smelly boozer (the reliably slimy Joe Pantoliano) and seems unable to explain why she won’t make a break for it.
One day, during an eventful trip to the museum, Percy discovers that he is in fact the son of the Greek deity Poseidon and, though hitherto unaware of his demigod status, that he has been accused of stealing a lightning bolt belonging to Zeus himself.
After spending time at a training camp for fellow humangod hybrids, Harry embarks with pals Hermione and Ron . . . Sorry, Percy embarks with Grover (Brandon T Jackson) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) on a quest to break into the underworld and clear up any misunderstandings.
When you hear that this is a film in which Pierce Brosnan plays a centaur and Uma Thurman turns up as Medusa, you will understand that not all the laughs are intended. But it definitely is funny. Maybe Steve Coogan seems too sleazy to play even Hades. Maybe Thurman is out-acted by the computergenerated snakes on her scalp. But Percy Jackson is still markedly less boring than any of the last three Potter films. Faint praise, I know.
Bad hair day: Uma Thurman as Medusa