After a terrific turn in last year's fine indie drama "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," Logan Lerman is back in franchise-land. This time, the engaging young actor reprises his role as earnest demigod (that is, half human-half god) Percy Jackson in the action-fantasy "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters." Skippable 3-D aside, it's a serviceable, limber follow-up to 2010's "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," again based on a novel from the Greek mythology-inspired adventure series by Rick Riordan.
The new installment finds a self-doubting Percy, son of sea god Poseidon, off on another Olympus-saving escapade, now with a trio of lively cohorts: Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), a skittish satyr (half man-half goat); Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom; and a newly discovered half brother, Tyson (Douglas Smith), who — surprise! — is a Cyclops, albeit a kindly one. (Talk about strange bedfellows: Tyson is the offspring of Poseidon and a sea nymph, hence the kid's one — and only — eye. And let me just say, eew.)
The quartet is on a quest to the Sea of Monsters (a.k.a. the Bermuda Triangle) to capture the legendary Golden Fleece from yet another Cyclops — this one of the colossal, deadly and ravenous variety. The point: so that the fleece's magical powers can help restore the invisible shield that critically protects Camp Half-Blood — a kind of Hogwarts for god-spawns — that was destroyed by a raging mechanical bull (and not the type you see in country-western bars, either).
There's a host of other treacherous, myth-centric obstacles in the way of Percy's posse, most of which make for fairly diverting, visual effects-heavy set pieces. These include a breakneck ride in a taxi driven by three blind witches, a fantastic voyage through the stomach of a vast sea monster and a climactic battle with the vengeful, child-swallowing Titan god Kronos, the series' ongoing antagonist.
Also intersecting with Percy and company are the hyper-competitive Clarisse (Leven Rambin), daughter of war god Ares; Half-Blood turncoat (and the first film's "lightning thief") Luke (Jake Abel), son of Hermes, messenger of the gods; Hermes himself (a broad Nathan Fillion), reimagined here as a spirited UPS worker; camp leader — and wine enthusiast — Dionysus, or "Mr. D" (Stanley Tucci, having fun); and wise centaur (half man-half horse) Chiron (Anthony Head), among others. If the characterizations throughout are pretty thin, they largely fill the bill.
The film, directed by Thor Freudenthal ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid") from a script by Marc Guggenheim, doubles as a kind of crash course in Greek mythology, though its more academic references and middling-joke asides may elude much younger viewers. Still, tweens and young teens should be sufficiently distracted by the movie's brisk pace and heroic mayhem — if they're not too unnerved by its at times nightmarish imagery.
'Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters'
MPAA rating: PG for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
Playing: In general release