There’s a hilarious JPEG going around online of the outline for Disney’s Pocahontas, title scratched out and replaced by “Avatar,” with various details such as “gold” replaced by “unobtainium.”
It’s even easier if you’re ripping off Harry Potter via the perfectly legal avenue of replacing “wizards” with “Greek demi-gods” in a dull movie such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
See, Percy (Logan Lerman) is an alienated kid, unhappy at home, who turns out to secretly be the “chosen one” — the son of the Greek god Poseidon and Catherine Keener.
His secret exposed by dark events, he is taken by a sage, bearded man — er, centaur (Pierce Brosnan) — to an academy where teens like him (the sons and daughters of gods such as Hermes, Athena and Aphrodite) harness their powers and are trained to wield swords in apparent preparation for the remake of 300.
Soon, however, he finds he must pursue his own quest, for horcruxes — er, I mean, magic pearls.
That Hollywood looked at the popular kidlit series by Rick Riordan and thought “Potter with togas!” is evidenced by the hiring of Chris Columbus, director of the first two Potter movies.
The problem is, whatever magic was in Riordan’s books is not in this FX-larded lump of a film. (It should be remembered that Columbus’s Potters were prior to the series turning dark and interesting.)
What’s really missing, however, is any sense that these are teenagers with super-powers. I mean, in real life, just give them car keys and they go insane. Give them Converse All Stars with wings and the screen should crackle with hormone-crazed exuberance (Ahem, Converse? No Nike Airs?)
It doesn’t. There’s a strange lethargy to Jackson’s arc, despite his encounters with Furies, a Minotaur, Medusa (fearlessly overacted by Uma Thurman), the Hydra and the Hounds of Hell. Percy Jackson and the Olympians has more the pace of a teen road-trip movie — which it mostly is.
(Some thoughts. Training for battle a la Greeks circa 300 B.C., who do these kids expect to fight? Also, if this is like demi-god high school, where are the lame-ohs? Everybody’s the offspring of a big-deal god. Where’s Brad, son of Testicles, the god of cheap jokes?)
But I digress. Percy sets off with Athena’s daughter Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), and his best friend, a “down wid’dat” urban satyr named Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) across the U.S. — New England, Nashville and Las Vegas, respectively — to find the pearls that will get them in and out of Hades.
Somehow, despite the best FX money can buy, there is a constant lack of urgency to all this. Adults will be checking their magical 21st Century watches. And if they’re bored, you know what that means for kids.