When grumpy god Zeus (Sean Bean) gets his lightning bolt nicked, he blames the son of fellow deity Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). With a war brewing between the two, it transpires that Poseidon Jr is unassuming American kid Percy Jackson (Lerman)
who knows nothing about his divine heritage and the fact that his mum Sally (Catherine Keener) got it on with the god of the sea. This all changes, however, when Percy is attacked by a demonic Fury disguised as an English teacher, his best friend Grover (Jackson) and Latin teacher Mr Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) leaping to his aid.
Learning that he is in fact part-man, part-god, Percy is sent by Mr Brunner (who turns out to be a centaur) to a training school for demigods with Grover (who is in fact a satyr) as his guide. Also along for the ride is Sally, who manages to be captured by a minotaur in the service of Hades (Steve Coogan), the god of the Underworld. With Grover and new pal Annabeth (Daddario), daughter of godess Athena, in tow, Percy sneaks away from the camp in the hope of rescuing his mum, facing numerous mythological perils along the way.
It's virtually impossible to discuss The Lightning Thief without mentioning a certain boy wizard, not least of all because the stories have so many glaring similarities to JK Rowling's phenomenally successful saga.
Based on the popular series of books by American author Rick Riordan, this first instalment in what the producers clearly hope will be a lucrative franchise is even directed by Columbus, who helmed the first two cinematic outings for Mr Harry Potter. That said, despite lacking some of the charm of Potter, Riordan's tale is strong and cleverly taps Greek myth for inspiration, with Columbus knowing just how to make the most of this fast-paced kids' fare.
Lerman may be a little bland but he's backed up by a host of extremely strong character actors, most notably Keener and the excellent McKidd, who was extremely compelling in TV miniseries Rome. There's also a fun cameo from Uma Thurman as a not entirely hideous Medusa, plus brief but welcome appearances by a range of quality actors, including Rosario Dawson and Joe Pantoliano.
It may not be a patch on Potter, but the light tone, superior special effects and exciting action sequences - most notably a battle with a multi-headed hydra - make The Lightning Thief a bit of a legend.