Monday, January 17, 2011

Movie Review: The Green Hornet

The Green Hornet ** ½
Directed by:
Michel Gondry.
Written By: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg based on the radio series by George W. Trendle.
Starring: Seth Rogen (Britt Reid / The Green Hornet), Jay Chou (Kato), Cameron Diaz (Lenore Case), Tom Wilkinson (James Reid), Christoph Waltz (Chudnofsky), David Harbour (Scanlon), Edward James Olmos (Axford), Jamie Harris (Popeye), Chad Coleman (Chili), Edward Furlong (Tupper).

There have been a lot of superhero movies in the past few years, but The Green Hornet is somewhat different from all of them. As much as I loved what Christopher Nolan has done with the Batman movies, among other filmmakers, The Green Hornet is still somewhat refreshing because it is the goofiest superhero movie in recent memory - it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and realizes that at the end of the day, it is telling a story about two men in masks fighting bad guys. Yet, at the same time, this is also the films ultimate undoing - it feels so slack and at times even lazy, that by the end you wonder why you should even care.

Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the son of newspaper mogul James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), who has always been disappointed in him. Britt has done nothing with his life except party, drink and sleep around. But when James unexpectedly dies, and leaves Britt is charge of his empire, he starts to think that maybe he should change his life. What’s more, when he meets his father’s mechanic Kato (Jay Chou), and realizes what a gadget genius he is - and what an expert of karate he is - decides that perhaps they can fight corruption in Los Angeles as superheroes. They set their sights on the evil Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) and try to draw him out in the open - and end up exposing a lot more than they expected to.

Yet, while to a certain The Green Hornet follows a rather predetermined route of an “origin story” for a superhero story; it is really little more than a buddy comedy between Britt and Kato. Rogen is one of those actors who has an effortless charm about him, and he is pretty much a perfect choice to play Britt and his alter ego. He is so self involved, egocentric, and yet underneath it all, also rather sweet and lovable. Rogen does pretty much all he can with the role (its limitations are Rogen’s fault, but as a writer, not an actor). For his part, Hay Chou is likable as well as Kato - a man tried of being taken advantage of, but also longing for a friend. They make up the heart of the film, and for the most part the films best scenes are between the two of them. The supporting cast is pretty much wasted - although I did enjoy Waltz as the over the top bad guy. Cameron Diaz, as Britt’s brainy, beautiful secretary seems to only be in the movie because they realized they had no other women in the movie.

The problem with the film it is so laid back that it lacks any real momentum from scene to scene - the entire plot is pretty much an afterthought, and for the most part, the story is just going through the motions from one scene to the next, as if the filmmakers don’t care, and simply want to get back to the scenes where Britt and Kato are just hanging out.

The film has to be seen as a disappointment for director Michel Gondry. Since making one of the greatest films of the last decade in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he has somewhat been treading water. While his films The Science of Sleep and Be Kind, Rewind are bursting at the seams with visual inventiveness, with their brilliant do it yourself special effects, they are not as satisfying on a writing level. Now, undoubtedly blessed with the biggest budget of his career, that inventiveness seems to have vanished. I don’t begrudge Gondry for taking a director for hire gig - everyone needs money I guess - but I wish he would have brought something of himself to the film. This feels like it could have been directed by anyone.

As I mentioned, to a certain extent, I found The Green Hornet refreshing. It has more of a sense of fun than any other superhero movie I can think of. And yet, I do wish the filmmakers had taken it just a little more seriously - and put a little more effort into writing and directing it. There are moments that are quite good, but overall, The Green Hornet is nothing more than a mildly enjoyable way to spend two hours.

1 comment:

  1. i enjoyed this post a lot. you managed to write exactly what i thought about this movie but i just couldn't put it into words. my friends actually thought this movie was "amazing", but i think you are right: fun and enjoyable to pass the time.