Finalist in the longest title division, Percy Jackson & The Olypians: the Lightning Thief, is all about track star Usain Bolt's escapades at the Olympics... well perhaps it should have been.
Anyway, what we have here is total escapist fare - one of those "park your brain at the door" entertainments that, if you're in the mood to simply be entertained and not have to think at all, period, works on a certain level. We're not re-inventing the wheel here, for in Greek mythology the invention of the wheel wasn't all that long ago.
We begin the film with that red headed doctor from Grey's Anatomy walking up out of the sea, two stories tall, with a trident tatoo (and I'm wondering, how does a god get a tatoo... quiet brain, just sit back and relax). I have to say, I look at the Grey's MD and instinctively DON'T LIKE HIM. Don't know what it is - perhaps some bearded red head betrayed my Scottish ancestors or something, but for whatever reason I dislike this guy on sight - which makes it kind of hard to really root for him or his spawn... but I digress.
Red beard then wanders through New York (after shrinking down to normal size and forgoing his armor for, in what I thought was a subtle touch, a navy pea coat). He finally arrives at the Empire State Building (which the credits will inform you, is part of the ESB Corp, all rights reserved, etc.) to meet with his brother Zeus (see, the ESB is the gateway to Olympus - damn, why didn't the guide tell me that when I went there!!!). I'm thinking to myself - hmmm, if Zeus wanted a meeting with his bro, why not rent a boat - but I guess if you're the head honcho, you make bro come to you.
Zeus points to the sky and asks red riding no hood what he sees. Suspecting that this is some kind of intelligence test amongst the gods, Poseidon answers "lots of storm clouds"..Hmm, storm clouds on the horizon - portents of bad things to come or some such drivel.
"Yes, storm clouds, but no lightning" booms Zeus, "and do you know why?"... here I'm thinking that Zeus would make an excellent 3rd grade teacher... but before Poseidon can answer, Zeus spills the big secret: somebody stole his lightning bolt!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now, I know what you're thinking, but really, I suppose he might have just misplaced it, after all, since he's immortal he must have accumulated lots of junk - probably has mini storage spaces all over the place - and perhaps he just can't remember where he stored his bolt. But NO!!!! Zeus is convinced that somebody stole the darned thing - and... if he doesn't get it back in two weeks (conveniently the date of the summer solstace), somebody is going to pay!!! (he might just release the Kraken... oops, wrong film).
Good ol Zuey goes on to imply that Poseidon or his agents (or demi gods sired by the big wet one) are responsible. Poseidon, I suspect, thinks that big bro has lost his marbles (as well as his lightning bolt), but cuts him some slack - after all, we're only 5 minutes into the film, and it wouldn't do for the two bros to get into a hissy fit before the main charactors are even introduced.
So there's the set-up. From here we meet Percy, who hint hint, likes to spend his time in the water. He has no idea that he's the son of a god (which, when you think of it, aren't we all???). The film does a pretty good job of giving Percy a regular guy persona. Yeah, the teen has real problems, including some form of dyslexia (which later gets explained that his brain is wired for reading Greek).
Percy's best friend is an African American cripple (who is just jive enough to get all the funny lines later in the film). There is a field trip to a Greek and Roman Mythology Museum (just in case anyone watching hasn't been introduced to the basics), where crippled teacher (hmm, a theme here) Pierce Brosnan (yes, James Bond is now a cripple, but wait, there's more, so hold onto your hats!!!!), tells the story of the Gods (using the polite vernacular)creating demi gods (or as the film has one of the students state "they got it on with us humans").
Ok, so far so good. From here it is revealed that Percy is in fact a demi-god (instead of Demi Moore) - and then we discover that James Bond is a Centaur and Percy's crippled buddy is a Satyr (half man, half goat if you're not up on such things) who is sworn to protect Percy.
They head out to Camp It's All Greek To Me (or something) where the demi-gods train to be all they can be (the few, the proud and we get to wear funny hats). Percy swoons over a daughter of Athena who easily bests him in battle (after all, Athena is, amongst other things, the goddess of military strategy; plus she's needed in the script to keep the interest of any testosterone teens who may be in the audience).
As the group is celebrating with roasted pigs on a spit and such (getting back to their roots perhaps), there is a surprise visit from Bro #3 - y'know, that underworld dude Hades. Wow, he really knows how to make an entrance! Of course Hades has heard that Percy has stolen the lightning bolt and figures that if he could get his (Literally)hot lil hands on it, then he'd be able to take vacations in a much more temperate clime. Percy once again tells yet another god that he DID NOT STEAL THE BOLT - why won't these gods ever listen??? Hades ups the ante by showing Percy that he is holding his mother hostage in Hell, so he'd better show up with the goods.
OK kiddies - pretty solid fare so far. Percy decides (against the advice of James Bond) to go to Hell (again literally) and bargain with Hades - his friends decide to come along - the girly girl perhaps to work on her sun tan??. But then they are faced with a dilemma - how the hell do you get to hell? (I mean, other than watching Clash of The Titans). They decide to ask one of the other kids at Camp I Come From A Broken Family - who was sired by Hermes (you know, the FTD mascot). Makes sense since Hermes is messenger to the gods, and as such has been to Hell many a time. Hermes Jr. says he's never seen his da (and gee, don't we all have abandonment issues - a nice touch acknowleged by the film), but has heard it through the grapevine (perhaps Baccus/Dionysis works as a lineman for the phone company in real life...) that it's easy to get to Hell (amen to that brother!) but much harder to escape (so true). He knows however that Persephone (and here you kind of have to know a bit of mythological lore) brings in paramours but they can only escape by stomping on some special blue pearls that act like the Star Trek transporter device. She has planted 3 such pearls in and around the US (and I'm wondering why she just doesn't give her lovers the pearls when they get there... ah shut up brain!). So the three heroes go off searching for the pearls, using a special map that Hermes Jr has given to them. Hermes Jr, in a loving gesture, also gives Percy a special shield. Oh boy, I'm sure that a 2,000 year old piece of armor will stop an uzzi... just saying.
From here the film morphs into a kind of road trip film, but that's ok, as the first stop, unbeknownst to the heroes is Medusa's lair. Here they meet up with The Bride, who goes all kung foo on them... wait, wrong movie. Uma is totally cool as Ms.Snakehair, and gets off one of the film's best lines, telling Percy "I used to date your father". Sad to say, it's all downhill from here. The quests get successively more rote and there's a totally implausable scene where the heroes, under a time constraint, decide to DRIVE from Nashville to Vegas. Huh??? I'm sure there were faster modes of transport than a beat up pick up truck.
There's the obligatory shock and awe scenes with the rubes gawking at the Vegas lights, and then a mildly funny dance sequence with Goat Boy, followed by a harrowing (or at least meant to be harrowing) escape from the casino of the damned in a Maserati (ooh, nice product placement, but I'm still pissed at the film for the earlier trashing of a chevy SuperSport). I'm also wondering if anyone else noticed that the emblem for Maserati is.... wait for it... a trident!
The scenes with Hades and Persephone could have used some more juice, and the final confrontation with the true Lightning Thief was pretty lame as well (and don't even get me started about the scenes in Olympus where all the various gods get 20 seconds face time for no discernable reason whatsoever. The final scenes, with the fade out, were superflous and totally bizarre, saved only by, who else, James Bond. Pretty ridiculous that after all Percy and Athena Jr had gone through they act like some juveniles playing puppy love. ARRRGh, makes my teeth hurt. A smootch would have been so much better than a badly choreographed sword fight.
The final analysis (if I've managed to keep you awake thus far) - the film has a nice feel, not taking itself too seriously, yet telling a decent story where you can, to a degree, have some investment in what happens to Percy and his crew. Comparing this to the overblown mess of Titans, you can readily tell the difference. Not great by any means, but entertaining enough, at least for the first 2/3.