There's a scene in the middle of "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" in which Percy, the demigod son of Poseidon, uses his powers to ride a wave of water (sans surfboard) toward a motorboat. Hot on his trail is the boring villain, Luke. In a better movie, they would've had a knockdown, drag-out fight on the high seas, complete with punches, wrestling and near-death peril. As it is, Percy splashes water in Luke's face, and that's it.
All of "Sea of Monsters" is like this: One disappointing sequence after another, constantly selling itself short when it could have been epic. Because the movie is both action-packed and dependent on visual effects, one imagines that budget limitations forced director Thor Freudenthal ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid") to scale back; if so, it was a mistake.
It's not that the action scenes necessarily look terrible (though the post-conversion 3D does them no favors), it's that they're over so quickly. As a result, the musical score barely registers, there's no emotional investment in the moment, and it all passes without much fancy. If you pay $15 to see this in 3D, you'll want more of the escape from the monster's belly, the taxi ride from hell, the hippocampus ride, etc. Unfortunately, the only lengthy action sequence features a mechanical bull — and it looks so fake, it borders on cheesy.
A sequel to "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief" (2010) and based on Rick Riordan's popular books, "Sea of Monsters" opens with Percy (Logan Lerman), Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) living at Camp Half-Blood, the only place where demigods can exist in peace. Or so they think. Luke (Jake Abel) poisons the tree that provides a protective shield at the camp, and the only thing that can save the tree is the Golden Fleece, located in the sea of monsters (aka the Bermuda Triangle).
So off go Percy, Annabeth and Grover to find the fleece. Percy's half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith), who is a Cyclops, joins them, as does hotheaded Clarisse (Leven Rambin), who loves a good fight. In their travels they encounter Luke, who wants the fleece so he can resurrect Kronos and kill all of the gods and demigods.
If you're wondering how long this film franchise could go on, Riordan wrote five Percy Jackson books, the last of which was "The Last Olympian" in 2009.
Aside from disappointing action, underwhelming visual effects and a predictable story in "Sea of Monsters," Lerman is dull as the lead. He was good in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," because the role called for him to be lame and he had incredibly talented people (Emma Watson, Ezra Miller) around him. Here, though, he needs more charisma and presence to command the screen as the hero, and he simply doesn't give us much to believe in.
"Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," rated PG, is for kids, so if any of the faults can be forgiven, it's the story's idiot-proof simplicity. Regardless, that isn't enough to make it worth recommending.