In Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, the second chapter of the Harry Potter riff (replace teen wizards with teen demigods, and you get the idea), Percy (Logan Lerman), the son of Poseidon, has to find the mythical golden fleece in order to keep the evil Titan Cronus at bay. Athena's spunky daughter (Alexandra Daddario) and a wisecracking satyr (Brandon T. Jackson) lend a hand on the desultory goose chase, which takes them everywhere from the depths of the ocean to Circe's magical island to Washington D.C., of all places.
There are plenty of artfully designed CGI monsters to make kids go yikes! (a flame-spitting mechanical bull), aww! (a cuddly sea horse), and eww! (the innards of an ocean beast), but the formulaic story won’t get more than a meh from anyone. The movie's action sequences and cutesy comic bits (best of which is Nathan Fillion's cameo as an all-business Hermes, running a UPS-style empire) arrive at stopwatch-regular intervals, as do the unsubtle moments when Percy learns important lessons about trusting his friends and deciding his own fate usually by stating them aloud like a schoolkid reciting spelling words. But what really separates Percy (based on the book series by Rick Riordan) from Potter is the vein of snark running through its characters. Sarcastic quips and cynical attitudes abound, maybe as a way for the movie's makers to telegraph that they know this is all just so much kid stuff. But if the characters can't muster genuine awe for their adventure, it's a tall order to ask us to do it for them. B-