If you're the parents and grandparents who have been calling for an action-adventure movie for your fourth- through eighth-graders that isn't horribly bloody, profane or sexed up, it's time to put your money where your mouth is.
“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” based on the book series by Rick Riordan, may not be quite as good as the Harry Potter series, but it is certainly aiming at the same core audience — and should do OK at snagging a good portion of it.
Magical powers; strange creatures from Greek mythology like centaurs, satyrs and cyclops; demigod children (think half-Muggle); and perilous journeys mean there are many Potter parallels to be found here.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Quality: Three stars (out of four)
Director: Thor Freudenthal
Stars: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion
Rating: PG for fantasy action violence, scary images, mild language
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
Theaters: Aksaraben, Twin Creek, Bluffs 17, Midtown, Regal, Westroads, Majestic, Village Pointe, Oak View
And the good guys, all back for this sequel to 2010's “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief,” are appealing, clean-cut young actors. As Percy, son of sea god Poseidon, Logan Lerman (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) is the boy next door every mom wishes her daughter would date — plucky, humble, self-sacrificing, kind.
His sidekicks are Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, and the satyr Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), both loyal and true.
They face off against sinister Luke (Jake Abel), son of Hermes, who wants to get back at his dad by resurrecting his evil grandfather, Kronos.
Luke needs the Golden Fleece to do it, while Percy and his gang need that same Golden Fleece to save a magical tree that keeps Camp Half-Blood (think Hogwarts) safe with an invisible barrier. The tree is poisoned and the barrier breeched.
Percy's rival within Camp Half-Blood is Clarisse (Levin Rambin), daughter of the god of war, Ares. Her team is chosen to cross the Sea of Monsters and retrieve the Golden Fleece, but Percy and his pals sneak out of camp to try to get there first.
Their job is complicated when Percy discovers that he has a half-brother cyclops named Tyson (Douglas Smith), son of Poseidon and a nymph. Tyson is a klutzy screw-up who creeps out Annabeth (she had a bad cyclops scare). They have to decide whether to trust him.
Their many adventures include fighting a fierce mechanical bull, riding a hippocampus (a sort of sea horse) over the waves, being swallowed by a giant sea monster, then hunted by a giant cyclops, and finally fighting Luke and the resurrected Kronos.
The monsters and special effects are fun, but adults may find it more entertaining to see Stanley Tucci as Mr. D (that's Dionysus, god of wine), who is being punished by Zeus. Every time he opens a fine bottle of vino, only water pours into his glass.
I also liked Nathan Fillion as Hermes, who runs a sort of Olympian UPS parcel service for the gods, and a trio of blind witches with a single eye (remember “Clash of the Titans”?) who drive a magical cab with Percy's team aboard.
Some of the monsters and situations are pretty intense, so use judgment in spite of the PG rating about which of your younger kids can avoid nightmares later. This is a solid, if not quite spectacular, series for tweeners and almost-tweeners, with lessons about embracing family, shaping your own fate and doing the right thing even at personal cost.