Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (2010)

Starring: Logan Lerman, Brandon T Jackon, Alexandra Daddario, Sean Bean, Kevin McKidd, Uma Thurman, Catherine Keener, Melina Kanakaredes, Rosario Dawson, Steve Coogan, Joe Pantoliano, Jake Abel

Directed by: Chris Columbus

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Logan Lerman, Brandon T Jackson and Alexandra Daddario in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

If there were a pantheon of gods responsible for PG family-friendly action adventure movies, then Chris Columbus would be Zeus. From Gremlins and The Goonies to Home Alone and the first two Harry Potter flicks, his work never fails to hit the mark, maintaining the perfect balance between cosy family values, cathartic slapstick comedy and a vicarious spice of danger  (or 'mild peril' as I believe it's now known). But would his Greek mythology mash-up for the High School Musical generation live up to this high standard?

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is your average, ADHD-affected, dyslexic youngster who goofs off at school, enjoys sports and hates his smelly, boorish stepdad. He also happens to be a demi-god, the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd – er, who else?). Not that he knows it, until Zeus's lightning bolt is stolen and the king of the gods (played by Sean Bean – again, who else?) decides that poor wee Percy is responsible.

Next thing our young Zac Efron-lite hero knows, he's being attacked by his English teacher in the form of a harpy, and his best mate Grover (Brandon T Jackson) has sprouted goat's legs and is bundling him off to Camp Half Blood, a training ground for demi-gods (who knew there were so many?), which boasts all the accoutrements of a Stateside Renaissance fair bar the fat monk gnawing on a chicken leg and combines the racing teeny hormones of Camp Rock with the potential body count of Camp Crystal Lake.

Not that our Perce stays there long. Like Harry Potter, Young Sherlock Holmes or any other adolescent hero worth his screen time, rules are not for the likes of Jackson, and he's soon embarking on a mad quest to save his mother from the underworld, accompanied by Grover and warrior Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the daughter of Athena, who looks as if she could eat young Perce for breakfast and still have room for pudding.

Uma Thurman hams it up as Medusa in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

Okay, so the plot is fairly daft, and expects us to swallow some pretty ridiculous concepts. Like why Zeus would figure Percy for the lightning bolt theft in the first place, why, if all Greek mythology is supposedly true, Medusa is still alive and why the instructors at Camp Half Blood think that learning to fight with a sword and shield is a useful skill in the 21st century. Where are the lessons in computer hacking and high-tech explosives, one can't help wondering?

But that said, if you can ignore the tedious teen angst, this is a hugely entertaining film, featuring some great cameos from the likes of Uma Thurman, playing Medusa as a cross between Cruella Deville and Miranda Priestley, Rosario Dawson as a cynical goth Persephone and, best of all, Steve Coogan as Hades, channelling Ozzy in an early episode of The Osbournes. The set pieces are great fun too, the highlight being a neon-drenched Vegas adventure to the tune of Elvis and Lady Gaga, in which our plucky trio narrowly escape becoming ensnared by the seductive, lotus-eating, hedonistic delights of Sin City.

Melina Kanakaredes, Sean Bean and Kevin McKidd as the Greek gods Athena, Zeus and Poseidon in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

Sure, some of the mythology is a bit flawed, but the film does succeed in conveying the Greek gods' complete disregard for humanity – and, it must be said, their utter irrelevance to the modern world. Sure (in one of many neat Potteresque links between our world and beyond), the entrance to Olympus may lie at the top of the Empire State Building (and the entrance to Hades through the Hollywood sign) but there is no real connection between the sword and sandalled realm of the gods and the high speed, networked world most of us live in. Which either makes this film equally irrelevant, or crowns Percy a truly representative teen role model, stuck between two worlds, not entirely at home in either.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is by no means a great film (it goes on too long, Percy only has two facial expressions and, in 2010, is it still necessary for the wisecracking black sidekick to sacrifice himself for the good of the white wunderkind?) but if you can't wait for Clash of the Titans or the next Harry Potter, it'll fill the time very nicely.

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