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Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Perils Of Being A Demigod"
1 stars

Of all the films to come out in the last few years in the hopes of launching a new and hugely profitable fantasy film franchise that would hopefully inherit the family audience left high and dry by the end of the Harry Potter series, 2010's "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" was certainly one of them. A by-the-numbers adaptation of the first of a series of books by Rick Riordan featuring an uninteresting hero, extravagant but largely ho-hum special effects and an appearance by Uma Thurman as the world's most counterproductive version of the usually fearsome Medusa (if you stare into her eyes, you turn to stone but if you shift your gaze maybe 18 inches lower. . .well, you can see where this joke is going), the end result was an uncommonly dull experience and when it failed to catch on at the box office amongst its target audience, most would have assumed that a follow-up would hit multiplexes at around the same time as the sequels to "Eragon" or "The Seeker." However, it apparently did well enough throughout the rest of the world to warrant a continuation and as a result, we now have "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters." To the rest of the world, I would like to take this moment to say "Good one, world!"

For those of you who either missed the first one or saw it and completely forgot about it, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is a seemingly normal teenage dope who discovered that the unknown father that impregnated his mother during a brief idyll and then disappeared was none other than Poseidon himself and that he possessed amazing powers which allowed him to save the world or something like that. As it turns out, the gods are apparently not big on protection because there are enough others like Percy to fill a giant school in which they could develop their powers, have wild adventures and such. Of course, if they actually did that, it might tip the story from merely being a rip-off of the Harry Potter stories to outright plagiarism. Instead, the kids are all sent to a remote camp in the woods where they can develop their powers, have wild adventures and introduce a "Hunger Games" motif to the proceedings. Perhaps in the next one, they can bring in a moody vampire and be officially reclassified as an anthology.

Anyway, as the story opens, Percy has not been doing as well as he had hoped in camp and despairs of being deemed "a one-quest wonder" and not even the support of his two best friends--the smart-as-a-whip Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and the goofy Grover (Brandon T. Jackson)--can help him feel better after suffering another defeat at the hands of rival Clarisse (Leven Rambin). Before he can get too mopey, the seemingly impregnable barricade protecting the camp from outside invaders is damaged by an attack led by the rotter Luke (Jake Abel), the one-time Lightning Thief whom Percy thought he had defeated the last time around. The only way to save the dying tree that powers the barricade is for Percy, along with Annabeth, Grover, Clarisse and newly discovered cycloptic half-brothers Tyson (Douglas Smith), to retrieve the fabled Golden Fleece from its last known resting place in the Sea of Monsters--you know it as the Bermuda Triangle--and use its restorative powers to bring it back to life while preventing Luke from getting his hands on it as part of some diabolical plan.

Although one cannot deny the importance of the lavish special effects to the massive worldwide success of the Harry Potter franchise, what really made them work was the fact that they told stories that were compelling and which largely managed to avoid being formulaic, even in the later entries, and because they featured characters that were likable, interesting and entirely relatable to viewers of all ages despite their magical powers. Those are elements that take time, effort and talent to properly develop and it is clear right from the start that the makers of "Sea of Monsters" have no interest in pursuing them. Instead, they have jerry-rigged a story consisting of elements and characters lifted almost entirely from other, better sources, thrown in a bunch of elaborate but uninvolving FX set-pieces that lack any real excitement or visual punch and added in some nondescript 3-D effects in a desperate attempt to convince audiences that they are watching a real story instead of a filmed deal.

Matters aren't helped by the fact that the hero is a bore, his sidekicks make little impression (though Daddario, who you may have also seen in "Texas Chainsaw 3-D," has an arresting set of peepers that deserve a better showcase) and the bad guy is so forgettable that even when he was on the screen, I kept wondering when the real villain was finally going to show up and get things going. At least the first film brought in a few famous faces, such as Pierce Brosnan, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener and the aforementioned Thurman, who managed to juice things up a little bit by the sheer force of their individual personalities. This time around, the celebrity cameos are of a decidedly reduced nature--Anthony Head steps into the horseshoes previously filled by Brosnan as the avuncular centaur who offers Percy life lessons, Nathan Fillion turns up as Hermes and slips in a joke vaguely referencing "Firefly" and Stanley Tucci, of all people, turns up as Dionysus, whose depravations have so angered the gods that he is now only allowed to drink water and who also inspires the film's best line; "Why do you torture yourself, Dionysus?" Maybe you had to be there, though I certain wouldn't recommend that.

Lacking the focus and commitment of a lesser "Fractured Fairy Tale," "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" is a film that is as unnecessary as it is boring--and it is very, very boring--and the fact that it ends with a blatant set-up for a third film can be read as either a threat or an insult. It is so lackluster, in fact, that it makes one nostalgic for the similarly overblown likes of "Jack the Giant Killer" and "Oz the Great and Powerful." At least those films were so completely awful that their wretchedness managed to generate some degree of interest, albeit of a negative nature. This one, on the other hand, is so innocuous that you can't even work up the requisite amount of energy to get mad at it because you will be too busy struggling to stay awake during it. On the bright side, if you do drowse off (and I almost did at a couple of point), at least those stupid 3-D glasses will prevent anyone sitting around you from noticing for a while.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23793&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/06/13 16:26:32
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USA
  07-Aug-2013 (PG)
  DVD: 17-Dec-2013

UK
  07-Aug-2013 (PG)

Australia
  19-Sep-2013
  DVD: 17-Dec-2013




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