Green Hornet Movie Lacks Sting
Based off the classic radio drama, 60s TV show, and 70 years of comic book iterations, the Green Hornet movie looks to bring this classic character to a new generation of fans.
Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is living a life of debauchery at his father’s expense, a well-respected newsman and owner of the Sentinel newspaper, when his father’s unlikely demise leaves Britt as the sole inheritor of the family fortune and newspaper legacy. Having wasted most of his life, Britt relies on the people around him to help run the newspaper, including new secretary Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) and his butler and the only man he can trust to make a good cup of coffee, Kato (Jay Chou).
After drinking one night with Kato, Britt’s resentment of his father comes to the surface and so the two set out to desecrate the statue placed at his gravesite. On the way to committing their act of petty vandalism, the two come across a woman being mugged and Kato and Britt jump into action (mostly Kato). It is then that Britt comes up with the crazy idea that he should be using his wealth and Kato’s mechanical savant and martial arts skills to fight crime and clean up the streets in ways his father never dreamed of. Unfortunately for Britt, Los Angeles crime lord Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) has a few different ideas for how the city should end up being run.
The thing that you have to keep in mind with this movie is that the story is basically an amalgamation of the origin story from those classic radio dramas and the more recent and modernized comic book that has been released over the past year by Dynamite Comics. The origin story basics are mostly kept in tact for Case, Kato, and Reid being a wealthy newspaper mogul, but playing the spoiled son who inherits it from his father is a Dynamite Comics twist.
Purists will be disappointed by the bumbling, goofy, yet well-intentioned Seth Rogen version of Britt Reid who remember the character as a master detective with a genius-level intellect that could hold his own in a fight. But since when are purists ever satisfied with a super-hero movie? My problem with Seth Rogen’s portrayal of the character was that whenever there was a punchline for him to deliver as Reid (and there are plenty since Rogen co-wrote the script), he’d break character. So, instead of trying to show us more of Reid’s personality, it came off as just Rogen telling a stupid joke in a green mask before he could compose himself and start acting as Reid again.
Rogen wasn’t the only eyesore on the screen though as Cameron Diaz as love interest/secretary/aspiring reporter Lenore Case was a joke. Cameron Diaz hasn’t been plausible as a love interest since The Mask starring Jim Carrey and is probably the most overrated leading lady in the past two decades of Hollywood yet for some reason she keeps being cast. Someone get me Scarlett Johansson, please. Not to mention that the character was poorly written and the banter between her and Rogen wasn’t funny at all. Mind you, as a whole, the movie did accomplish its mission to be a “lighter” and more jovial super-hero movie and succeeded in distancing itself from the darker and more serious films that have been the definition of the super-hero genre for the last few years.
In fact, most of the movie is actually a lot of fun as the relationship between Britt and Kato makes this feel at times more like a textbook buddy comedy instead of a super-hero film. I credit this to the great rapport that Jay Chou and Rogen were able to develop and it made the relationship between Britt and Kato seem a lot more natural than in most other iterations I’ve seen before with these characters.
And speaking of characters, Christoph Waltz is a rising superstar in Hollywood because he was absolutely brilliant as the villain with confidence issues, Chudnofsky. One second he was cold and calculating and the next he was delivering probably the funniest lines in the entire movie. Every scene he was in is a highlight of the film for me.
Now, this movie is also another in the long line of 3D films that seem to be flooding the theatres right now. But unlike most of those other 3D films, this one did well in keeping the gimmick to a minimum and reserved it for only a few of the action sequences so it wouldn’t jolt you out of the story too much. Of course, it was only used in a few action sequences, because there weren’t as many of these sequences as you would expect from a super-hero movie. Again, this is probably because the movie was focusing more on the comedy and plot development than on the actual character and its history.
This extra exposition also made the movie feel about 15-20 minutes too long. This could be because the movie probably got caught in the middle of if it was trying to be an action movie or a straight up comedy. Coming in at 1 hour 50 minutes, some of the jokes or character development could have been trimmed to help the movie flow a lot better than it did and will probably have you look at your watch a couple times during the more drawn out scenes. This could also be the fault of director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, Be Kind Rewind) whose best known works are comedies and maybe he didn’t feel right moving so far outside his comfort zone.
When all is said and done, this movie ended up being mostly what it intended to be: a fun, colorful romp that didn’t take itself too seriously. It falls short a little in terms of the acting chops and it could have used a little more action and a little less comedy, but despite this, The Green Hornet was a solid movie going experience that should please fans old and new of the character with its humor and occasional reference to the old 1960s TV series starring Bruce Lee and Van Williams.
If you’re not a Green Hornet diehard and still on the fence on whether you should see this, I can easily recommend this for a cheap matinee or something that could be moved to the top of your Netflix queue when released on DVD/Blu-Ray, but is not something you should pay full price for or rush out to see opening weekend.