A silly pre-teen film such as “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” makes most of its money overseas, which means that it plays like an afterthought in North America. So if the film looks terribly adolescent for American teens and under (mostly way under), Fox isn’t going to worry.
This is the second film based on a young adult book series by former Greek Mythology middle-school teacher Rick Riordan. The first was “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” which as the late Roger Ebert noted sounds like the name of a singing group.
The novels, and now the films, mix Greek mythology with modern day kids so that one minute characters are worrying about Poseidon or conversing with a Chiron — a man with the back of a horse for an ass — and the next they’re strolling around Washington D.C. or sailing into the Bermuda Triangle.
The second film is helmed by Thor Freudenthal, a German-born director who seems to be carving out a niche for himself as a director of studio kiddie movies such as “Hotel for Dogs” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
He fumbles this one rather badly though, never establishing a workable tone to carry a viewer through the CG special effects and too many characters and monsters for much to register. The model was there though in the Harry Potter films themselves.
But first let’s look at what “Percy 2″ delivers.
The film awkwardly establishes the young demigods — these being youngsters born of gods who mated with humans — as all living in the protected safety of boot camp for demi’s called Camp Half-Blood.
Percy Jackson is the teenage son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and a mom played by Catherine Keener in the original film but left unmentioned and apparently forgotten in the sequel.
Various calamities force Percy on a quest to find the fabled Golden Fleece. Although another demi, Clarisse LaRue (Leven Rambin), daughter of Ares, the god of war, is determined that this is her quest. You know how competitive teenagers are.
Anyway Percy is supported by his entourage, meaning Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), a satyr (half man/half goat); Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), offspring of Athena, goddess of wisdom; and an embarrassing half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith), who is a cyclops. This means the actor must go through most of the movie with the special effect of a single eye in his face.
The story unfolds with a numbing literalness and none of the wonder that thrilled Harry Potter’s fans.
The Potter movies, you’ll recall, began life with a nice mix of magic and comedy that ever so slowly over a series of films turned darker and more serious. “Percy 2″ rambles all over the place: Most scene are played for comedy, even when the gang is in jeopardy. So any “terror” that CG monsters should evoke dribbles away.
You’re not even sure how you’re meant to react to a huge, menacing cycops, sea monster, raging mechanical bull or an ancient oracle since they’re such cartoonish figures.
The integration of Greek mythology with the modern world is poorly done if only because the modern world doesn’t so much resemble contemporary society but contemporary CG movies.
The acting is mediocre throughout with the exception of Stanley Tucci as Dionysus, the wine-loving camp counselor. (Now there’s a role model for the demigods!) And special effects are pretty banal by today’s standards.
As I said, the movie isn’t really trying to catch the attention of most American kids with such unsophisticated stuff. For the record, the youngsters at the L.A. press screening seemed even more unimpressed than I was.
Opens: August 7, 2013 (20th Century Fox)
Production companies: Fox 2000 Pictures, Sunswept Entertainment, 1492 Pictures, Dune Entertainment
Cast: Logan Leman, Alexandra Daddario, Jake Abel, Douglas Smith, Stanley Tucci, Leven Rambin, Nathan Fillion, Anthony Stewart Head
Director: Thor Freudenthal
Screenwriter: Marc Guggenheim
Based on the novel by: Rick Riordan
Producers: Karen Rosenfelt, Michael Barnathan
Executive producers: Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, Guy Oseary, Greg Mooradian
Director of photography: Shelly Johnson
Production designer: Claude Paré
Music: Andrew Lockington
Costume designer: Monique Prudhomme
Editor: Mark Goldblatt
PG rating, 105 minutes