For this Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters’target audience of kids who get dropped off at the movies, the difference between 2010 and 2013 may only seem like the growth between Pre-Algebra and Algebra 2. But indeed, math proves no match for the art of finding the next viable franchise in Hollywood, especially over the course of three Tinseltown years, which witnessed adaptive failures that ranged from 2010’sPrince of Persia: The Sands of Time to this year’s Beautiful Creatures.Initially included on that list was the underperforming 2010 movie franchise launcher based on author Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. Yet stranger than an Olympian lightning bolt, it was given a second chance by movie execs with an announcement in October 2011. Released now, after a half dozen combined Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games movies, this second Percy Jackson treads its territory softly, careful not offend the vengeful adolescent gods of the multiplexes. Thankfully that means no scene in which a Minotaur dances to Lady Gaga as in the first film, but it also marks a lack of much-needed mojo. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters condemns itself with such a mild manner that it struggles to even match the trappings of Twilight.In this second film, Logan Lerman’s Percy Jackson, the half-human son of Poseidon, lives in a camp with other teenagers of his unique biological kind. He and his friends, half-Minotaur Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Annabelle (Alexandra Daddario), along with competitor Clarisse (Leven Rambin), are protected by a shield from Zeus as a memorial to his own daughter, Talia, who was killed as a young girl. When the shield is in danger of being completely destroyed by bad apple Lucas (Jake Abel), who aims to raise super demon god Kronos as an act of teenage angst, Percy ventures out with his friends and a newly discovered Cyclops stepbrother named Tyson (Douglas Smith) to find the mystical Golden Fleece in the Sea of Monsters (aka the Bermuda Triangle). This magical trinket will either save Percy’s brethren or be used to wipe out the entire world. After appearing as a much more intriguing, albeit god-less teen in last year’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Lerman already seems to be weary from franchise fatigue. With Percy no longer rotating through a young hero’s “Save the world? But I’m just a kid!” school vacation dilemma, Lerman feels unamused by this role, a sensation infectiously passed on to Jackson and Daddario. The three of them let the movie wash over them with half-baked jokes, its gentle story pushing them from CG sequence to CG sequence until the finish.While this picture aims to sell franchise-ready mythology bastardizations back to its audience, newcomers Smith and Rambin both comparably stand out, giving the movie brief glimmers of much needed attitude. Despite a blitzkrieg of one-eye jokes, Smith brings hippy optimism with his outcast character. Rambin, more or less a bootleg product made to satiate Katniss Fever, peppers this story with a tinge of heroic competition while the script admirably ignores making gender a distinct issue in the rivalry.With almost no adults from the original returning for round two, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters doesn’t fare too well either with its mature supporting roles. Stanley Tucci carries in sass that made for more successful silliness in movies like Burlesque, joking his way through minimal scenes and even giving Jesus Christ a bizarre shout out as an actual god because he can turn a natural resource into booze. Nathan Fillion is recruited for a brief segment as Hermes, complete with heavy product placement and his having to share awkward comedic time with two squabbling snakes on his staff (voiced by Octavia Spencer and Craig Robinson). If it weren’t obvious from previous scenes, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters certainly exposes its lackluster elements with these moments, as all four strong entertainers flounder to make specifically comedic moments amusing.This is a retry with the top priority of being liked, not loved. If it were to somehow become someone’s favorite movie, it would be because it balances numerous previously liked elements in a way to personal enjoyment, such as when some people embrace trail mix bags with more pretzels than nuts.
Despite using Greek mythology as its special weapon, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters has little excitement for its source material. Instead, monsters and other memorable figures that have languished in the imagination for thousands of years in literature appear in this 2013 feature film with the fleeting presence of a cameo; names mentioned more in passing than with definition. The shallow, throwaway mockery of its rich material smatters all the more of desperation, as opposed to the intended hip send-up of the classics.For such a streamlined matinee-ready experience, the film’s cliffhanger at the end is admittedly intriguing. Yet a more curious question about a revival remains: Will audiences hunger for more of this world that continually bastardizes from more self-assertive and monumental beings? Because at the moment, its largest distinction is being harmlessly insignificant.Den of Geek Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars