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Originally published Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 3:00 PM

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Movie review

'Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief' lacks the flash of the book

"Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," which follows a kid (Logan Lerman) who learns that he is a demigod and goes on a series of adventures to find a stolen lightning bolt, isn't as enjoyable as the book it's based on, says Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars

'Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,' with Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan, Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener, Kevin McKidd, Joe Pantoliano, Uma Thurman, Jake Abel. Directed by Chris Columbus, from a screenplay by Craig Titley, based on the novel by Rick Riordan. 119 minutes. Rated PG for action violence and peril, some scary images and suggestive material, and mild language. Several theaters; see Page 15.

Sometimes, a funny thing happens on the way to the movies. Something definitely happened to Rick Riordan's popular children's adventure novel "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," which in its print form is a witty first-person tale of a 12-year-old who learns he is a demigod (his father is one of the Mount Olympus gods of Greek myth, by way of some back story that seems sort of reasonable as Riordan tells it) and goes on a series of adventures to find a stolen lightning bolt. On screen, the kid is 17, the wit is pretty much gone and many of the adventures are different. In other words, fans of the book may not recognize this movie.

Logan Lerman, a handsome actor with carefully arranged hair, plays Percy as a kid with little personality. Not Lerman's fault: Craig Titley's screenplay is focused entirely on action and zooming the plot along. Lost is the mildly snarky character whose ponderings on his unexpected demigodness are often hilarious, such as, when meeting Hades and noting that the underworld god's garments seemed to be crafted of lost souls, "What horrible things would you have to do in your life to get woven into Hades' underwear?" He's flanked on his quest by his trusty pals from Half-Blood Camp, Ron and Hermione — oops, I mean Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), who are, respectively, a half-grown satyr and a warrior daughter of Athena, and who have only marginally more personality (he: wisecracky; she: sultry; both: dull) than Percy.

Director Chris Columbus ("Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone") has fun with some of the special effects: Uma Thurman hisses deliciously from beneath a cap of CGI snakes as Medusa; Pierce Brosnan — or, rather, the upper third of him — looks splendid as a centaur. But while the filmmakers celebrate the book's irresistible Greek-gods-in-the-real-world concept, they miss the other key element: Percy, in the book, seems like a real kid, one readers might enjoy knowing. Here, he and his friends have been swept through a Hollywood machine, emerging as product on the other end.

Kids may well enjoy the adventures of "The Lightning Thief" on screen, but I think most readers will prefer the movie in their imaginations.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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