Friday, February 12, 2010

Help! The Lightning Thief Just Stole My Ten Dollars!

B-Sol here with a very special review. Unfortunately, not Mr. Rogers special. More like Olympics special.

Let me begin by saying that I could've seen The Wolf Man tonight--the movie I've been waiting more than two years to finally see. Not that I expect it to be excellent or anything, but it's a project I've followed all this time, and I'm super curious to check it out. But instead of that, what I wound up seeing is Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, the movie with the longest title since Hugh Grant went up a hill and came down a mountain.

See, I'm the father of two lovely kids, aged 5 and 8. Said lovely kids were all kinds of jazzed about seeing Percy's perfectly coiffed teeny bopper adventures, and I wasn't about to deny them this, of course. And even though Benicio Del Toro as Larry Talbot was unspooling just next door in the adjacent auditorium, and I could've very easily left the young ones with their mommy and gone to see it--which I was encouraged to do if I wanted--I opted to be a good dad and join them instead.

And while, in the end, this left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling in my heart, it also left me with a sour and queasy feeling in my stomach. Because Percy Jackson & The Olympians may very well be one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

This is a movie which features Pierce Brosnan as a centaur. This is Harry Potter crossed with The Wizards of Waverly Place. This is a movie that contains lines of dialogue like, "Keep moving, keep moving, don't lose interest! One foot in front of the other, and before you know it, you're running!"

From the beginning to the end of its ponderous two-hour running time, we are buffeted with cliches of every color and variety. Characters embark on a journey to Hades, and immediately a montage kicks off accompanied by the strains of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell"--and this, right after one of the characters has already used the phrase "highway to hell" in a sentence. Later, they arrive in Las Vegas, and yes, we are met with the Ocean's 11 remix of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation". I couldn't make this up if I tried.

In perhaps the film's most egregious crime, we have the old stand-by trope of the "magical Negro"--only this time, he actually is magical. Percy, the demi-god son of Poseidon, is accompanied on his journeys by his trusty African-American (African-Greek?) sidekick and protector, Grover the Satyr. Who goes around incessantly saying things like, "Oh dat's NASTY!" and is also notoriously oversexed--because, as you know, all "satyrs" are thus. Oh, Steppin Fetchit, you never really left us, did you?

But what makes this even worse is the movie's saccharine, phony insistence on the shallow kind "I'm OK, you're OK" political correctness that infects our culture like the clap. Great pains are taken to show us that Grover, in his human form handicapped and on crutches, is still capable of protecting Percy. Meanwhile, Percy suffers from ADHD and dyslexia (again, not making this up), only to later discover that these are not disabilities, but only "different abilities". You see, Percy's ADHD was really just his "warrior instincts", and his dyslexia was only happening because his brain is "wired for Ancient Greek". I will pause while you allow the bile to lower back down into your stomach.

And yet somebody must've thought this was going to be great, because there are celebrity cameos aplenty, and boy do they stink. Uma Thurman pops up as Medusa, proving indeed that Batman and Robin was no fluke, and that she still does certainly have the ability to royally suck. As she channels her inner Poison Ivy once more, I couldn't help but notice how much cooler Harryhausen's Medusa from the original Clash of the Titans was than the CGI nightmare they turned Uma into. And speaking of Clash, in one of cinema's truly cringe-worthy moments, we have Percy echoing Perseus' strategy against the Gorgon by watching her indirectly via her reflection in--wait for it--the back of his iPod.

That said, the one and only wonderful moment of the entire experience occurred during the Medusa scene, as my two children covered their eyes so as to avoid being turned into stone. That, in and of itself, was completely worth all the torture. But, I digress.

There's the aforementioned Pierce Brosnan, who is so bad as to be laughable, especially in his earlier, pre-Centaur scenes as a wheelchair-bound history teacher. I don't think I've really noticed as much as I have the past couple years what an atrocious actor Brosnan is. His insincerity fairly leaps off the screen and smacks you in the face like a wet bath towel.

Rosario Dawson shows up as an inexplicably horny Persephone. The dude from Hamlet 2 is suddenly playing it serious as Hades. Joey Pants even pops up as Percy's Dickensian stepfather, whose antics as a stereotypically abusive and boorish Italian-American, I will admit, made me chuckle in spite of myself. This did not go over well with the Mrs.

I know I did the right thing. I really do. And as a mythology buff, I enjoyed seeing my kids recognize and understand elements from the Greek legends I've taught them. But as the movie drew to a close, I found myself inevitably thinking, "I could've seen The Wolf Man. But instead, I lost two hours of my life on this train wreck." And just as I finished that thought, just as the closing credits started to crawl, my thought was interrupted by the sound of the theater, jam-packed with giddy tweens, erupting into loud and enthusiastic applause. Sigh.

And then, leaving the theater, I passed a lobby poster for the new Clash of the Titans. It depicted Perseus holding up the head of Medusa, and as I walked by, I could hear one kid exclaim to another, "Hey look! Just like in the Lightning Thief!"

Double sigh.

7 comment(s):

rylestheryter said...

WOW. I knew this was gonna be a shitbomb from the first trailer, but your description makes it sound even more painful than I was anticipating. It's sad what amuses today's youth...they'll never have it as good as we did (and when I say we, I mean everyone who got to see several animated Disney movies in the theater when computer animation was used sparingly for one or two effects.) Le sigh.

B-Sol said...

Hey, I hear ya. The first Disney animated feature that came out when I was a kid was The Rescuers!

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh, I can't wait to be a dad. My sitting through crap movies quotient will raise by a factor of 10.

Stewart Sternberg said...

From the absurd trailers to the Harry Potter rip off logos, one knew the badness would be horrific. Thanks for confirming what I feared.

James C. Sugrue said...

I didn't know anything about this movie other than the title. I thought it was going to be about a gay black dude who stole from the power company. Imagine my disappointment.

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B-Sol said...

James, I think that actually would've been way, way better.

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