Just say shazam

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

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

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