February 17, 2010

Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief -- Movie Review

Richard Riordan, the writer of the series that the Chris Columbus-helmed picture is loosely based on, realized that the best narratives and storylines are those that have already been around for thousands of years.  No need to ransack the pop culture detritus of sixties and seventies sitcoms, action figures, board games, and reboots, when you've got a veritable pantheon of familial conflict, supernatural creatures, sex, and mindless violence.  They've probably retold Homer's Odyssey (which is admittedly pretty kickass) at least a couple of dozen times now.   

Still, no matter how good the underlying story, it always comes down to the execution.   And Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief flails and misses most of the time.  There is the increasingly annoying overreliance on CGI, dialogue which can charitably be called expository, and an underlying thematic structure that just moves from set piece to set piece and finally to predictable ending like a connect-the-dots-puzzle.   The performances are hardly noteworthy either:  Brandon Jackson plays a hoofed Stepin Fetchit offering sad, urban comic relief, Pierce Brosnan appears constantly drowsy from flu medication, and Joe Pantiliano seems to have cornered the actor's market on New York-accented douche (with a noticeably expanded gut to boot).   Is Catherine Keener the middle-aged mom in every single coming-of-age movie being produced now?  Uma Thurman chews scenery like a pro.  And poor, poor Steve Coogan.  Channeling Alice Cooper via Alan Partridge as Hades.  I'm not sure if he was trying to convey menace, but it came off as bare-chested embarrassment instead.  The two leads, who probably should remain nameless, can't do much with what they're given, and so don't.  And ala Watchmen, is anybody aware that you don't need to match songs word-for-word with the narrative?  I.e., playing "Highway to Hell" driving on the highway to Hades/Hell and playing Lady GaGa's "Poker Face," while walking through a casino?  When did music in movies have to be so goddamned literal? 

I was intrigued, though, at the idea of a Camp Crystal Lake for the various offspring of god/human couplings.   Considering that there were at most a dozen gods on Mt. Olympus (including oddly, a token black Greek god), and since there were what looked like a couple hundred or so teenage warriors-in-training at summer camp, someone needs to find the gods a hobby besides penetration and impregnation.  Ease off the throttle, boys and girls.  Sudoku, perhaps?  How about a cooking class?

"My mom was raped and knocked up by Zeus, who literally came in the form of a swan.   I now crave breadcrumbs and poop on the lawn incessantly."

And I don't even want to think about centaurs.   Allegory is pretty creepy when it likely involves horse dicks and ultrasound.  

Percy Jackson might be worth a rental, depending on how high you are at Blockbuster.   And the PG rating might be a little deceptive, as my five year old found a few of the scenes unnecessarily terrifying (thanks for making me feel like a bad parent, MPAA!).

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