It may be the only good idea director Chris Columbus ever had, but at least in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, he finds a use for Greek currency: give it to Charon and he’ll take you across the river Styx into the Underworld. Too bad the drachma doesn’t exist anymore in the real world. And too bad (for the Euro) Greece’s current economic situation is taking the Euro down with it. It’s a sad state of affairs indeed when a country’s ancient currency is reduced to a bit part in a Chris Columbus movie.
There are many sad things in this movie, none of them intentional. The camerawork—which seems to consist of switching the camera on and off. The screenplay—which reduces Catherine Keener to wooden declarations of single-mom platitudes. The quirks, shall we say, of the story—which involves the quickest meet-cute trajectory ever recorded on film.
It’s not all a disaster, though. When Charon does take you to the Underworld, you get to see the brilliant comedian Steve Coogan playing Hades as a cross between Ozzy Osbourne and a biker dude. He is one of the few in a roster of fairly well-known actors who seems not only to be slumming but also sincerely depicting a character. (If you don’t know Coogan, rent Michael Winterbottom’s take on Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, A Cock and Bull Story.)
The same can’t be said for Uma Thurman, who makes no attempt at sincerity and simply has a blast. Her Medusa is almost worth the trip to the movie. Wearing a black leather coat with a collar to die for (or turn to stone for), and channels a spa denizen gone to the dark side. And even a head-full of snakes doesn’t overshadow her performance.
Percy Jackson and The Olympians will never, ever be on anybody’s list (except the Razzies?) of top movies. But it does leave us with an abiding mystery. Why, of all the Greek gods depicted on screen, including Melina Kanakaredes as Athena, is Rosario Dawson’s Persephone the only one who speaks Greek? “Go away,” she says, to the Hell Hounds in Hades. Would that we could do the same.