February 12, 2010 at 1:00 am

Review: 'Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief' -- GRADE: D+

Review: 'Percy Jackson' fails to take off

Uma Thurman and Logan Lerman, in a lame fantasy franchise attempt. (20th Century Fox)

Percy Jackson, you are no Harry Potter. You are not fit to walk in a hobbit's wake.

One more lame attempt to start a children's fantasy franchise, "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" -- the title just rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? -- is one of those films that stumbles when it should surge and offers faint humor where strong attitude would be welcome. It has all the wrong moves.

Credit this chiefly to director Chris Columbus, who helmed the first two somewhat clumsy Potter films as well as "Home Alone" and "Mrs. Doubtfire." Columbus has had some big hits, but this will not be one of them.

It's not that the story is any more ridiculous than most. It's that the execution lacks magic.

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is your average high school kid when he discovers he is actually the son of the god Poseidon (Kevin McKidd), and that his best friend Grover (Detroiter Brandon T. Jackson) is a satyr with goat's legs who's supposed to be his protector.

Somebody has stolen a lightning bolt belonging to the god Zeus (Sean Bean). For reasons unclear, Zeus figures it must be the innocent Percy. Somehow this leads Percy off on a quest to save his mom (Catherine Keener) from hell and find the lightning bolt and return it to Zeus.

All manner of mythical characters pop up -- from Pierce Brosnan playing a centaur, to Uma Thurman as Medusa and Steve Coogan doing a rock star impersonation of Hades. Plus, Percy gets to wear sneakers with wings that let him fly.

You can see the appeal of the original book by Rick Riordan -- what kid wouldn't want to think he was secretly a demi-god with super powers?

But "Percy Jackson" has no real pep to it as Columbus moves from one special-effects sequence to the next, and as an effects film it is perhaps the first clear casualty in a post-"Avatar" world: Everything looks somewhat cheesy, from the opening shot of the giant Poseidon to the nervous hooves of the centaurs.

As fantasies go, "Percy Jackson" never lifts off, much less soars. Harry, you're safe for now.