the Green Hornet has certainly made the rounds since his introduction back in the 1930s. For the most part though, he's always been a serious vigilante, an anti-hero not to be trifled with. So what about 2011's The Green Hornet? It's not a bad film by any means, but it ain't that good either. Moral of the story; a comedic story about a masked vigilante might not have been the best choice.
When his father, a well-respected newspaper publisher, dies, 20-something Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is left to take stock of what he should do with his life. He's left in charge of the newspaper, but he has no idea where to even start. Britt meets Kato (Jay Chou), his dead father's mechanic and designated coffee maker (surprisingly funny background there), and finds a kindred spirit of sorts. Intelligent and talented, Kato is similarly drifting along and similarly didn't like Britt's father. One night vandalizing a statue of Britt's dad, the duo beats up a bunch of thugs robbing a young couple and an idea is born. Teaming up, could they be a crime-fighting duo that cleans up Los Angeles' mean streets? Enter the Green Hornet and his masked sidekick, Kato.
This is a difficult movie to review for a couple reasons. While I'm not a diehard Green Hornet fan, I do consider myself a fan. The reviews were decidedly negative for this 2011 venture, and the box office (about $98 million) was less than impressive. It's difficult though because somewhere in this mess of a movie is a good movie. Somewhere. I'm not sure where. The parts that work are very funny, and the instances where it's a little (not a lot) spoofy are very entertaining. The parts that don't work? Well, they really don't work, grating on all that positive karma built up. In the end, it's a mixed bag. I'll slightly recommend it -- with some measured things to remember -- but know going in that this is far from a great or even very good movie.
What does work? That's tricky because Rogen playing the Green Hornet is both good and bad. He wrote the script with longtime friend Evan Goldberg and like their previous positive ventures -- Pineapple Express, Superbad -- there is an easy-going comfort level. The best thing going for 'Hornet' is the hero-sidekick-partner relationship between Britt and Kato, but only at its best in the quiet moments. When they discover they both hated Britt's father, when they develop the secret but ultra-cool persona of the Green Hornet, when they become friends, that is when the movie is clicking on all cylinders. Like Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in Superbad, Rogen and James Franco in Pineapple Express, Rogen and Goldberg know how to write scenes of dialogue between two guys and make it seem natural. It's just too bad there couldn't have been more of that here in 'Hornet.' The cool factor with the pimped-out Black Beauty, their ridiculous but stylish "disguises," all those little things had potential.
Instead, we get lots of overly goofy, even downright dumb spoof-like scenes mixed in with an abundance of overdone, exaggerated action scenes. Rogen is guilty here of resorting to annoying Rogen. He's a legitimately good comedic actor when he underplays his scenes. That's not the case here. He's yelling and screaming and waving his arms, hamming it up like his life depended on it. Thankfully, Chou at his side as Kato is an underplayed gem, the best part in the movie. As for the action, director Michel Gondry puts the gas pedal to the floor. Big, slo-mo explosions, lots of excessive, quick-cut hand-to-hand combat, and a surprisingly brutal streak when it comes to on-screen violence. 'Hornet' isn't guilty of a spoof. It's too dark at times for that. In terms of humor and pushing the limits, it goes far beyond spoof into some sort of odd purgatory beyond. What is it exactly? Hell if I know.
In some odd, what the hell is she doing here casting, Cameron Diaz plays Lenore Chase, Britt's babely, eye-candy secretary, an aspiring investigative reporter. I question what drew Diaz to the part because she's a better actress than this part requires. Similarly in an odd part, Tom Wilkinson seems to have been blackmailed into taking this small part as Britt's bastard of a father, but he's gone by the 10-minute mark or so. Looking like he's genuinely having some fun, Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) plays Chudnofsky, the king of L.A. crime always trying to figure out how to be more intimidating, more scary to his victims/clients. David Harbour is the possibly shady district attorney, James Edward Olmos looks bored as a veteran journalist, and Edward Furlong (he's alive!!!) makes a stretch of an appearance as a meth dealer. Franco too delivers an uncredited funny cameo as Danny Crystal Cleer, a club owner who incurs Chudnofsky's wrath.
I don't know. I went in with measured -- even lowish -- expectations, and I came away disappointed because at times I really liked this movie. The pacing at 119 minutes becomes an issue, and the lack of focus doesn't help too. Spoof superhero movie? Kind of. Hardcore drama? A little. Funny? You bet when the comedy is done right. A mixed bag in the end. Still, you do get to hear the Green Hornet theme -- listen HERE -- and that's never a bad thing.
The Green Hornet <---trailer (2011): ** 1/2 /****