Heroes In Hoodies Thrilling, smart family fun
“Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” has a really, really long title. Luckily it’s good enough to carry it. Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) has it tough—his mom (Catherine Keener) is married to a guy (Joe Pantoliano) he doesn’t like (and who doesn’t like him), he’s got both a severe case of dyslexia and ADHD, and he just doesn’t fit in. Unless he’s underwater, where he can hold his breath for nearly seven minutes at a time. After a Fury attacks him during a field trip, Percy learns that he has more than an ordinary case of teen angst—his dad is Posiedon, Greek god of the sea. His best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) is actually a satyr destined to protect him (a teenage boy as a satyr, which are known for their, um, lascivious tendencies, is pretty funny). His teacher is a centaur. And Percy is in great danger, since he’s been accused of stealing Zeus’s (Sean Bean) lightening bolt (why Percy is accused isn’t clear and is a major hole in the plot. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence suggesting he did it.)
So Percy is shipped off to a camp for demigods—a combination of RennFest and boot camp. There he meets Annabeth (Alexandria Daddario), a daughter of Athena, and Luke (Jake Abel), the charismatic son of Hermes. While there, he learns that Hades has captured Percy’s mother and will exchange her for the return of the lightening bolt. Of course, Zeus wants it back, too, and if he doesn’t get it, there will be war among the gods, life on earth will end, etc. You know, the usual. Chris Columbus, who directed the first two “Harry Potter” movies, directs the smart, fast-paced script (by Craig Titley, adapting Rick Riordan’s novel) at quidditch speed. The film is packed full of clever references to Greek mythology (here’s a hint: if you’re on a quest and a hot woman offers you something to eat, don’t eat it) and the battle scenes, particularly those involving swordplay, are pure cinematic fun.
This film, I think, would be particularly good for any child diagnosed with learning differences. Percy’s dyslexia and ADHD, explains Grover, aren’t curses—they’re simply signs that his brain is wired differently, so that he might succeed at other things. Kids with disabilities also might react in the same way—characters use crutches and wheelchairs to cover up greater powers. Some of the scenes will be frightening for younger children—a boy of about six jumped into his father’s lap at the first sign of the Fury and didn’t leave throughout the movie—particularly those involving Hades, who typically appears as a fiery demon. But for the seven and up crowd there’s little to worry about. “Ass” is tossed around a few times; “hell” describes the literal place. Persephone, Hades’s wife, entertains extramarital visitors, but as Luke explains, “It’s hot. He’s a weirdo.” At one point Percy, Grover and Annabeth all eat a flower with pleasurable narcotic effects, but that turns out not to be a good idea (surprise!). The trio also go to Vegas and gamble. I’ve not read the books, but if they’re half as fun as the movie, I’ll be sure to check them out. This hero’s quest for the Clearasil crowd is cleverly written, intensely directed and a soaring dose of movie fun.
By Kristen Page-Kirby
Kristen Page-Kirby is the editor of Chesapeake Family magazine. She last reviewed The Tooth Fairy.