I realize that Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief primarily exists as a commodity but at least it's a reasonably well-made commodity. Whereas the Harry Potter franchise was an almost incidental hit, it's very likely that author Rick Riordon created this series merely because he noticed that a new generation of kids were ripe for their own publishing phenomenon. Ergo, he boiler-plated Greek mythology onto elements of J.K. Rowling's universe.
The results are decidedly mixed. First off, our titular hero (newcomer Logan Lerman) has a lot more edge and attitude than our polite and measured Master Potter. He's a surly young man who struggles with dyslexia, ADHD and a skeezy creep (Joe Pantoliano) that his mom's been forced to shack up with in order to make ends meet. During a field trip to a local museum, Percy discovers to his surprise that he can read ancient Greek with ease and has a preternatural affinity for antiquities.
Soon Percy is beset by a veritable conveyer belt of mythical assassins, all of whom seem to think that he's the one who pilfered Zeus's Lightning Bolt in order to incite civil war in Olympus. Soon Percy and his mom Sally (Catherine Keener) are whisked away by his High School pal Ron, er...I mean Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), whom we learn is a rather loyal if not unorthodox guardian. Revelations keep piling up after Grover leads them to Hogwar...er, Camp Half-Blood, a clandestine proving ground for the love children of gods and their mortal sperm dumpsters.
It's soon revealed that Percy is actually a wizar..er, I mean a demigod; the child of Poseidon and his human mother. When Sally is captured and whisked off to Hades, Percy vows to rescue her, contrary to the warnings of Dumbledo..., crap, Chiron, the wise centaur played by Pierce Brosnan (?). Along with Grover, Percy completes his triumvirate of allies by enlisting the aid of Hermio...ARGH! I mean Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the daughter of Athena.
This hastily-assembled troika then strike forth to locate Persephone's pearls, which will allow them to escape the bonds of Hades after they recover Percy's moms. Along the way they encounter the world's hottest Gorgon (Uma Thurman), the largest and most incongruous piece of architecture in cinema history, and some great footage for the Las Vegas tourist bureau.
Honestly, there nothing particularly odious or moronic going on in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and I certainly think there are much worse things that kids could watch. At the very least they should learn a little bit about Greek mythology. Director Chris Columbus completely outclasses his earthbound direction in the first two Harry Potter flicks and he actually creates some moments of genuine spectacle. For what it's worth, the special effects are also flawless and intense.
Unfortunately the characters are nowhere near as appealing as the Potter gang. Logan Lerman is pretty white bread when compared to Daniel Radcliffe's Harry, Alexandra Daddario is particularly unmemorable as Annabeth and Brandon T. Jackson's Grover never develops beyond a handful of painfully unfunny lines and some stereotypical personality tics. Oh, and the sight of Remington Steele's torso grafted onto a horse is just knee-slappin' HI-larious.
In a world that's produced such cinematic pre-teen crap as Crossroads and The Mystical Adventures of Billy Owens you certainly could do far worse than Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Then again, that ain't sayin' too much.