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The last time we saw everybody’s favorite son-of-a-god, he was on a quest to retrieve Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt in Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
Some 226 million worldwide box office dollars later, Percy and his fellow Half-Bloods have regrouped to track down the Golden Fleece somewhere off the Florida coast.
Although mercifully coming in at under epic length, the Thor Freudenthal-directed Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, which actually runs about 10 minutes shorter than its 2010 predecessor, lacks the energetic zip of the Chris Columbus-helmed installment.
It also struggles to nimbly balance that very evident Harry Potter-esque reverence with the loopier departures blended into the storylines of Rick Riordan’s series of best-selling books.
Imaginative special effects sequences and the dedicated performances of its young cast should nevertheless help bring in some serious drachmas ahead of back-to-school preparations.
The start of the new odyssey finds Percy (Logan Lerman), the half-human son of Poseidon, already racked with self-doubt over his demigod street cred, further challenged by the discovery of half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith), a teen Cyclops whose mom was a sea nymph.
When Percy learns of a prophecy that could put all of Olympus in jeopardy, he and his optically challenged sibling join forces with his trusted satyr pal Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Athena offspring Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario) to track down the Golden Fleece before it falls into the hands of former lightning thief Luke (Jake Abel), who seeks it to resurrect the thoroughly evil Kronos.
While Columbus, who, of course, also directed the first two Harry Potter movies, lent Lightning Thief a briskness that goosed all that heavy Greek mythology, incoming director Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Hotel for Dogs), working from Marc Guggenheim’s screenplay, proves less successful in establishing a unifying tone.
The cast give it their all and includes Leven Rambin (Hunger Games) as feisty Clarisse LaRue, daughter of Ares, the god of war; Anthony Head as Percy’s Centaur mentor; Stanley Tucci as Camp Half-Blood’s hedonistic Mr. D (as in, Dionysus) and a sardonic Nathan Fillion as a UPS store managing Hermes.
But the true star of the show is once again the visually commanding, if loud, special effects sequences — this time including one set in the Sea of Monsters (a.k.a. the Bermuda Triangle) and a grand finale featuring the towering Kronos.
Elsewhere, more old-school production values are similarly solid, with an abandoned East New Orleans Six Flags Amusement Park, written off after Hurricane Katrina, making for an effectively creepy Circeland.
Opens: Wednesday, August 7 (20th Century Fox)
Production companies: Fox 2000 Pictures, TSG Entertainment, Sunswept Entertainment, 1492 Pictures
Cast: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Jack Abel, Douglas Smith, Nathan Fillion, Stanley Tucci
Director: Thor Freudenthal
Screenwriter: Marc Guggenheim
Executive producers: Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, Mark Morgan, Guy Oseary, Greg Mooradian
Producers: Karen Rosenfelt, Michael Barnathan
Director of photography: Shelly Johnson
Production designer: Claude Pare
Music: Andrew Lockington
Costume designer: Monique Prudhomme
Editor: Mark Goldblatt
Rating: PG, 106 minutes.
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