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Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is an aged-up version of the Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief book that Common Sense Media recommends for readers 9 and up. Young hero Percy is now in high school rather than middle school; his satyr friend Grover loves the ladies; and a trip that Percy, Grover, and Annabeth take to a casino has a nightclub, a full bar, and trippy lotus flowers that all the patrons ingest (in the book, they play video and arcade games endlessly). Plus, the violence level is high for a PG-rated movie: Monsters are very frightning, especially the demonic ones -- like Hades aflame with skeletal wings and a fury sent to destroy Percy -- characters (monster and human) are impaled and slashed at with swords, and Percy's mom is crushed by a minotaur and taken to the underworld. After Medusa's head is severed, it's dragged along on the road trip to Hades.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Seemingly normal (albeit dyslexic) D student Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) realizes that something is very wrong when he's attacked by a demonic beast during a class trip and whisked away by his mother (Catherine Keener) and friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) to a secret camp. He wakes up in an infirmary like no other, teeming with teens in Greek battle gear, as he remembers with a jolt that he fought and killed a minotaur ... but only after it took his mother to the underworld. Grover, now sporting the goat hooves of a satyr, leads Percy through camp explaining that he's actually half-god -- and his parent isn't just any god, but sea king Poseidon. But before Percy can even break in his new bunk, Hades accuses him of stealing Zeus' master lightning bolt. So Percy decides to go to the underworld to find the truth and save his mother. Grover and daughter-of-Athena Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) decide to go with him, armed with a magic map from senior camper Luke (Jake Abel) that will lead them to three special pearls -- the key to getting out of the underworld alive. Too bad Luke didn't warn them about what was guarding the pearls -- they'll have to fight Medusa (Uma Thurman), a hydra, and even lotus flowers to get to the underworld and back before the gods' petty fighting destroys the earth.
Is it any good?
Kids have been waiting for this movie adaptation for a long time; too bad they'll likely be disappointed, especially if they love the book series. The filmmakers had a great formula on their hands: Rick Riordan's fanastic story, which puts mythology in modern times, adds a bit of sass, and makes a hero of a dyslexic Everykid; Chris Columbus, the director of the first two Harry Potter movies, at the helm; some great monster special effects; and some great actors, even in the supporting roles (Pierce Brosnan, Thurman, Keener, Joe Pantoliano). But the script is a mess; too many liberties were taken with the original plot, which, with its search for the three pearls as the focus, now seems more like a Dora the Explorer episode with expensive special effects.
And the decision to make the main characters teens instead of tweens was a bad one. It keeps the three cross-country travelers from developing as friends on their quest. Annabeth is simply some hot girl who's great with a sword, and Grover puts all his energy into wooing the ladies. The book saga is a friendship tale at its heart, and that's just not here. And even if you're in it just to watch kids have fun slashing the heads off of a hydra or climb Mt. Olympus above the Empire State Building, the special effects work is uneven. The gods as giants look quite fake, making an important scene where Percy meets his dad fall flat -- but at that point most viewers will already be beyond being disappointed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the book vs. the movie. So much was changed here -- the characters' ages, the plot, the places they visit, etc. Was it still the movie you were hoping for?
Talk about the scare factor. Did anything make you hide under your chair? What mythological monsters would you least like to see in the real world? Does fantasy violence have the same impact as more realistic violence?
Who are your favorite hero characters? Do they usually have humble beginnings, thinking they're nobody special, or do they always know what they're destined for? How many of your favorite heroes are girls? Boys?
- In theaters: February 12, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: June 22, 2010
- Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, Logan Lerman
- Director: Chris Columbus
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: action violence and peril, some scary images and suggestive material, and mild language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.