- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
big screen adaptation of “The Green Hornet” has been in the works for so long that it’s actually a little surprising one was finally made – although not as much as the people who made it. After all, Seth Rogen isn’t the first person you’d think of to star as the titular hero (hell, he’s not even the hundredth), let alone one to be put in charge of penning the script with writing partner Evan Goldberg. But it’s exactly the comic sensibility that he brings to the material, especially when combined with director Michel Gondry’s eccentric style, that makes this tongue-in-cheek take on the superhero genre a lot better than expected. The film is a bit uneven at times, but when it's firing on all cylinders, "The Green Hornet" is far too entertaining not to enjoy.
Deviating slightly from the 1930s radio serial and 1960s TV series, the film imagines Britt Reid (Rogen) as a playboy party animal who lives off his father’s media empire. But when James Reid (Tom Wilkinson) mysteriously dies and Britt is handed the keys to the kingdom, he convinces his father’s mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou), to join him in doing something meaningful by moonlighting as crimefighters. Only instead of all the other superheroes, who everyone knows is the good guy, Britt suggests that in order to get close to the villain, they pose as criminals. Armed with disguises, cool gadgets, and a state-of-the-art vehicle, the duo earns the attention of local crime kingpin Chudnofksy (Christoph Waltz), who doesn’t appreciate the Green Hornet moving in on his turf and has devised a plan to get rid of him for good.
Perhaps the biggest concern among fans of the "Green Hornet" franchise was that Seth Rogen would somehow ruin its legacy by not taking it seriously, but apart from some well-placed humor involving Britt and Kato that examines the relationship of hero and sidekick, the film is a pretty straightforward action flick. Nevertheless, while the fight sequences are really cool and inventive, it’s the comedic moments that really shine. The rapport between Rogen and Jay Chou, in particular, is a goldmine for comedy, and though the former may be the star of the movie, it’s the Taiwanese pop star turned actor who steals nearly every scene. He makes Kato into more than just another sidekick – one who could easily be the leading man in his own movie. Chou’s thick accent may irritate some people, but you could say the same thing about Rogen’s bullfrog voice, who despite being more reserved than usual in the film, still has a tendency to annoy.
Christoph Waltz also embraces the script’s comedic tone by having some real fun as the villain. Though it’s admittedly a little similar to his Oscar-winning role in “Inglourious Basterds,” Waltz injects some life into the otherwise generic Chudnofsky by playing him as a self-aware psychopath going through a mid-life crisis. If there’s a weak link in the cast, it’s Cameron Diaz, who’s thrust into the film midway through and never manages to be more than dead weight. It’s hardly the actresses’ fault, but her character doesn’t seem to serve any purpose other than to create conflict in Britt and Kato's friendship.
With the exception of Diaz’s character, the script is actually quite good, offering a nice balance of action, comedy and drama that will surely silence anyone who doubted Rogen and Goldberg’s ability to do “The Green Hornet” justice. It was also an inspired decision to hire a filmmaker like Michel Gondry to direct, because while the movie isn’t nearly as bizarre as his other work, it shares the same visual style, which not only lends well to the post-conversion 3D, but also gives it a unique look that separates it from other superhero films. It’s not going to revolutionize the genre, but thanks to Rogen and Chou’s strong chemistry and Gondry's childlike creativity, "The Green Hornet" rises above its shockingly low expectations with an action-comedy that's just plain good fun.