THE GREEN HORNET
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
JANUARY 15, 2011
Go into “The Green Hornet” expecting a comedy rather than the next big blockbuster action flick, and I guarantee you will be somewhat happier walking out of the theater. Yes, the trailer makes the film look like a high-octane superhero action movie, but in all reality, this is just another way for Seth Rogen to be funny without stooping to “Knocked Up 2.”
Seth Rogen lost weight to play the part of Britt Reid, a newspaperman’s spoiled and rich son. His weight loss makes him a suaver, more realistic playboy that still has his careless, ignorant edge. When a bee sting kills Britt’s father, the light switch finally clicks on in Britt’s head. Enter Jay Chou as Britt’s father’s mechanic and coffeemaker, Kato, in his first and highly successful American role. Britt and Kato become friends, proceeding to get to know each other by decapitating a statue of Britt’s father. During their hijinks, Kato reveals a decked-out Imperial Crown and his hidden ability to attack with supernatural speed and precision (which is never quite explained besides Kato being Japanese and mainly a plow to instill more “3-Dimensional” content into the film).
Getting comfortable with Seth Rogen and “The Green Hornet” is not all bad. Rogen follows in the footsteps of a handful of comedians who have personalized a particular type of humor for which they have become known. Will Ferrell is a massive example of these stars, playing different roles constantly yet bringing the same funny guy stature to all his parts. The problem lies in little room for a middle ground on whether audiences like or dislike his humor. Seth Rogen carries that same sort of branded ness to his comedies (“Knocked Up,” “Superbad,” “Funny People,” “Pineapple Express”) and continues to do so with “The Green Hornet” regardless of whether this comes off as an action film.
The concept is on the right track, but the execution gets mishandled. Seth Rogen explains the details of the film in his dialogue. Two regular guys (for the most part) posing as criminals to throw off their adversaries in a different plot for a hero story. However, most of the film’s plot and action appear thrown together rather than carefully constructed. Characters “do things” instead of being driven to do them with probable cause. Rogen and Chou spend most of the film fighting each other over petty jealousy that has little to no impact, often coming off recycled. In essence, there is a lack of intent behind why the characters do what they’re doing.
“Kick-Ass” would be a prime example of what this film could have aspired to be. Stylized and humorous, “Kick-Ass” took the best qualities of its comic book companions and produced a worthwhile movie. “The Green Hornet” relies too heavily on the excellent cars and Rogen’s humor that it loses the stylized “superhero comic” aura. Though the costumes, masks, decked-out vehicles, and weapons effectively translate to the screen, the film lacks enough supplemental areas to lose its critical demographic.
Warning: Avoid the temptation to pay for the 3D gimmick as there are absolutely no scenes that feel even remotely worth the extra cost of glasses.
There is a “give and take” for the rest of the casting. I am convinced that Christoph Waltz could do no wrong, even if he tried. No matter how ridiculous his dialogue, Waltz comes off sadistic and eccentric in such a perfect way, making me wish the film could have been an absolute success just for his sake. Cameron Diaz, however, is just another pretty face. Her part is glazed over as the object of affection, demoralizing her character completely. Had the writers (Seth Rogen and Adam Goldberg) made her more interesting than the two men, I could have felt somewhat invested in this aspect of the story, but ultimately, she could have been any other actress, and it would not have mattered.
Director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) seems an odd choice to take the reigns of such a target-missing endeavor, but he handles the visuals quite well. Chase sequences, especially in cars, can be overwhelming, but Gondry directs them efficiently. The final action sequence within the newspaper print and offices comes off less in tune, with completely unfathomable car tricks: the Imperial shimming sideways of a newspaper print and taking a thirty-foot drop to land ideally on its tires or the Imperial getting torn in half, yet remaining drivable. I feel that none of this was the fault of Gondry but rather the writing team. A few more drafts of this film and a tight-knitted edit job and “The Green Hornet” could have gone from “good” to “great.”
I was entirely entertained by “The Green Hornet” and never quite felt cheated. Still, I am one to enjoy Seth Rogen and his comedy, so my bias overcomes the disappointment in the action department. Christoph Waltz and the introduction of Jay Chou are the bonuses of the film, while Cameron Diaz and the unkempt overall feel of the film are its downfalls.
January 14, 2011
“The Green Hornet”
by George W. Trendle
(for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content)
James Newton Howard
Edward James Olmos
Neal H. Moritz