Published On: Thu, Jan 13th, 2011

‘The Green Hornet’ film review by Media Mikes

I have to admit from the start here that I was VERY worried about “The Green Hornet.” First, the release date was pushed back so that the film could be converted to (in my opinion wasted) 3D. Then about two months ago I started seeing commercials for a popular fast food restaurant that were not only hyping the movie but featured the stars of it! Seriously. Seth Rogen is hawking tacos! Think that was Eddie Murphy’s voice doing the Mickey D commercials for the last “Shrek” tie in? It wasn’t. To keep you reading I’ll tell you who it was at the end of this review. 30 days out ANOTHER fast food joint was offering customers a chance to win the car from the film. All of these things screamed TROUBLE to me. But while no one will ever mistake “The Green Hornet” for “The Dark Knight,” it really isn’t that bad.

Los Angeles. 1991. His wife dead, newspaper publisher James Reid is having problems with his young son, Britt, who has just been disciplined at school for attempting to help a classmate. “It doesn’t matter that you try when you always fail,” his father scolds him.

the-green-hornet-movie-posterLos Angeles. Present day. His wife dead, newspaper publisher James Reid is having problems with his now much older son, Britt (Rogen). Seems Britt likes the night life and social amenities having a rich father can bring. When pop dies suddenly Britt is put in charge of the newspaper. Ignoring the pleas of his father’s right hand man and senior editor (Edward James Olmos), he decides to run the paper the way he has run his life. Poorly. After a chance meeting with his father’s former mechanic, Kato (Chou), Britt talks him into making a little mischief. However, they end up interrupting an attempted robbery and find themselves in the news. His ego fueling his ideas, Britt tells the staff of the newspaper to begin highlighting this new “hero” who has emerged to fight crime. When questioned about how to refer to this new crime fighter he suggests the moniker “The Green Bee.” Yes, someone made a better suggestion.

Well directed, with action to spare, “The Green Hornet” suffers from funny-itus. While Rogen wouldn’t have been my first (or 10th) choice to play the title character, he isn’t bad. However the script, which Rogen co-wrote with his “Superbad” partner Evan Goldberg, lacks any of the charm that made the original television series a cult classic. Is it as bad as “Batman and Robin?” No. And speaking of that film, wouldn’t George Clooney be a great Britt Reid? Sorry. I’m thinking out loud here. So while it’s not the fault of Rogen the actor it is the fault of Rogen the writer that the film lagers in second tier territory. Rogen does seem to be having fun with the role (as does James Franco, who appears early in the film in a great cameo). But the film slows down every time Kato speaks. Jay Chou is one of the biggest stars, both in music and on screen, it Taiwan, and that star quality shows every time Kato has to kick a little ass. Unfortunately, whether by design or because of culture, his line delivery is stilted, as if he’s been told to sound the words out phonetically. That is not meant to demean Chou (I would not even begin to know how to speak Chinese). It’s just that the film slows down every time Kato speaks. Another drawback is the usually solid Cameron Diaz, who Britt hires as his new executive secretary and researcher. I’m sure she was meant to bring to mind Tony Stark’s assistant, Pepper Potts in “Iron Man.” She doesn’t. ‘Nuff said? The only one really seeming to be enjoying himself is Waltz, last year’s supporting Oscar winner for “Inglorious Basterds.” As the major crime boss in L.A., he is sometimes menacing and sometimes a little off, especially when he tries to come up with a “saying” that he can use before he kills someone. And it would have been nice if they could have found a cameo for Van Williams (television’s “Hornet”) somewhere in the film. There is a nice tribute to Bruce Lee (the T.V. Kato) early in the film so at least someone was paying attention.

On the plus side, director Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) continues to grow behind the camera. The action scenes are solid as are the many car chases. Though I should mention that, for wanting to be good guys, Britt and Kato destroy an awful lot of police cars. The fight scenes, filmed in what I’ll call “Kato-Vision,” are top shelf and rival anything you’d find in the “Matrix” world. And you can never discount the effect a cool car, in this case a tricked out 1965 Chrysler Imperial, can have. Known as “The Black Beauty,” the car is as much a star of the film as Rogen or Chou. But while “Kato-Vision” is pretty cool, the converted 3D is worthless. In fact, except for the guns on the hood of the Black Beauty and the end credits, I never would have suspected the film was in 3D. Surprise! Speaking of surprises, the actor who voiced Donkey in the “Shrek” related McDonald’s commercials is a young man named Mark Moseley. You can also hear him on the various “Shrek” video games. If they come out with a “Green Hornet” game maybe they’ll hire him to voice Kato!

Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou and Christoph Waltz
Directed by: Michel Gondry
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 48 mins

MOVIE MIKES SCORE: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

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