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OK, let's get one thing straight: Percy Jackson is not Harry Potter. If you had read anything else about "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" (from here on out I'll just stick with "The Lightning Thief") then you've read that Percy doesn't stack up against Harry.
I have never seen a movie so completely defined by what it isn't more in my life. I think this is the laziest critique anyone can give this film. I knew this wasn't "Harry Potter" as soon as I saw the first preview; the title is a dead giveaway. Yeah, "The Lightning Thief" deals with supernatural elements, there is a quest involved, the heroes are young people and it's all based on a series of popular young-adult novels. So the film shares basic elements with that other franchise, but I think it stands pretty well on its own.
"The Lightning Thief" is about Percy Jackson, a high- school student who struggles with dyslexia and ADHD. It turns out that Percy's learning impairments are the result of his strange parentage: Percy is the son of Greek god of the sea, Poseidon. He has dyslexia because he is meant to read ancient Greek and his ADHD is really just battle instincts. He is a demi-god, or a half-blood, and he is not alone. It turns out that the Greek gods and goddesses are very real and they are still around; they've just moved to America. I don't want to get bogged down with more plot details than that, just know that the film contains plenty of Greek mythology references and it adds up to some entertaining, innocent fun.
Since this is the first film in what may be a franchise, there is a lot of setup to go through. This movie speeds through all of that pretty quickly, however. We're introduced to the safe haven for demigods, Camp Half-Blood, but Percy is barely there before he has to take off on a road trip. I understand that movies like this need to move quickly, but I would have liked 15 more minutes to set up the day-to-day life at the camp. It's not much of a problem, though, because the characters are fun to watch.
Logan Lerman plays Percy with a sufficient amount of dumb wonder. Alexandra Daddario plays off of him quite well as his love interest-rival Annabeth (daughter of Athena). Out of the three leads, though, it's Brandon T. Jackson ("Tropic Thunder") who shines. Jackson plays Grover, a satyr who is Percy's friend and protector ... and his comic relief. Grover is mainly used for the laughs of the film and it might be painfully obvious that he's only there to be goofy, but Jackson really does come through with the laughs. I won't spoil any gags, but I think it's safe to say that people of all ages will laugh at least a few times.
Aside from the leads, there is a plethora of stars in small roles as mythological characters. Pierce Brosnan stands out as Chiron, the centaur-teacher. Uma Thurman gets to ham it up as Medusa. Steve Coogan, Sean Bean, Kevin McKidd and Rosario Dawson also star as supernatural characters. On the mortal side, there is Catherine Keener, who is apparently stuck in "mom" mode and Joe Pantoliano in a fun role as Percy's scumbag step-father. Pretty much every actor handles his role ably, except, ironically, Jake Abel as Luke, the camp's demigod leader. He is completely unconvincing, but his screen time is, thankfully, limited.
Of course, with all of these mythological characters there are going to be some CG aspects. "The Lightning Thief" handles most effects quite well, never appearing completely goofy. The centaurs look decent, and Grover's satyr legs look very convincing. There's nothing here that will blow you away, but you certainly won't roll your eyes at any of the effects, either.
The visuals are suitable for the film, but a lot of your enjoyment depends on your knowledge of Greek mythology. If you remember how Medusa is taken down, then you'll probably smile when you see the modern way it plays out in this film. And if you remember the Lotus Eaters from "The Odyssey," then you'll love the scenes in the Lotus Casino. That was by far my favorite sequence of the film.
So "The Lightning Thief" isn't "Harry Potter." But it is a fun movie that I think people of all ages can enjoy. Yes, the younger viewers will probably like it the most, but the older viewers will probably find themselves having more fun with it than they thought they would. Just don't take it too seriously and you'll be fine. Save your serious viewing for boy wizards.
A Cannelton resident, Harris is a movie buff and blogger who posts reviews of films at www.canneltoncritic.com.