‘Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters’
Director: Thor Freudenthal
Stars: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson
1 Globe (out of 5)
Modern lit for anyone under 18 is distressingly interchangeable, with each ripping off either “Harry Potter” or “Twilight.” Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson” series, which steals from the former, at least has a potentially fun idea: Its boring blank slate hero gets to hang with the stars of Greek myth, who are evidently real. The first film adaptation, from 2010, surrounded star Logan Lerman with a mile-long who’s-who of affordable names, from Uma Thurman as Medusa to Pierce Brosnan as a centaur out of a romance novel cover.
The last, hugely impressionable sight is one of the many things tragically chucked from the much-dialed down sequel. Nearly all of the former supporting cast, along with their storied characters, are missing. (The cheaper Anthony Stewart Head fills in for Brosnan, and even he’s AWOL for most of the running time.) There’s not even a sea of monsters — just one, singular beast, visible only as a circle of pointy teeth, like an aquatic Sarlac from “Return of the Jedi.” (Note: That’s not as neat as it sounds.) All that’s left are emo teens engaging in either self-esteem issues or precocious wouldbe-villainy.
This round finds Lerman’s Percy trying to find the fabled Golden Fleece to save a dying tree, as well as his threatened home at Camp Half-Blood, which looks like the ground of a Renaissance Faire. (That name won’t be the only borderline litigious crib from “Harry Potter.) Again, this sounds like fun: Who wouldn’t like a modern rehash of “Jason and the Argonauts?” That question remains after “Sea of Monsters,” which does too little playing with established mythical stories, offering a steady stream of uninspired set pieces alternating with thumb-twiddling teen-aged character development. Percy gets a brother this time in Tyson (Douglas Smith), a lovable lug of a cyclops who teaches everybody a groaning lesson in tolerance.
Fantasy fiction teems with dull leads getting a Joseph Campbell-bred actualization of their inner hero. But the heroes usually aren’t this bland. Lerman, as he was in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” is monotonously nice. Moreover, having already achieved a massive victory in installment one (crows a friend, “He saved Olympus. What have you ever done?”), he simply gets to realize it again, just to make sure. The first offered shiny, adult distractions from young Percy and pals. All you get here are sassy snakes and a rampaging robot bull — again, not as neat as it sounds.