Director: Michel Gondry
Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Cinematographer: John Schwartzman
Stars: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz
Seth Rogen, slacker superhero
There’s never been a worse superhero than the Green Hornet. Not that the movie is completely irredeemable or that Seth Rogen does a poor job; it’s just that his Britt Reid is not very good at the whole superhero thing. Or even the whole decent-human thing. His qualifications for the job seem to be: 1. Having a limitless supply of money. 2. Having a side-kick that does all the work.
I worried going into the film that Rogen (who co-wrote the script) would take the slacker superhero idea to new lows and that Gondry would make a really cool-looking movie where very little happens. Check. And check. The plot mostly involves Reid wasting his life because his daddy was mean to him, meeting his dad’s mechanic Kato who happens to be a martial-arts expert, teaming up with Kato to fight crime, and getting insanely jealous of Kato for actually being good at it. Reid is a spoiled, misogynistic, mean, out-of-shape brat who gets lucky during fights until the final scene when he inexplicably inherits Kato’s ability to hone in on danger and slow time while disarming the bad guys—maybe Kato was contagious. His faults provide plenty of room for growth, but it’s not particularly believable growth.
Kato (Jay Chou), on the other hand, makes for a great superhero. He was an orphan on the streets of China who didn’t much like working for Reid’s father and doesn’t much like being thought of as a sidekick, particularly since he creates all the cool gadgets and does the majority of the fighting. And it’s in the fight scenes where Gondry shines. It’s a visual delight, but it’s also the first Gondry film that doesn’t remind you every moment that it’s a Gondry film. His usual aesthetic takes a backseat to more typical comic-book action, but with his originality layered on top.
Cristoph Waltz is solid as the Russian crime lord Benjamin Chudnofsky, with a flash of his Inglorious Basterd bad-assery in the opening scene, but even he becomes less effectual as a villain as the movie progresses. And the white-collar corruption that the original series focused on manifests itself in the one-dimensional smarminess of the district attorney Frank Scanlon (David Harbour).
Still, Rogen is funny enough, Gondry is surprising enough and Chou is super enough to overcome some of the film’s flaws and make it enjoyable. The world may not have needed another irresponsible millionaire superhero—Iron Man filled that void quite nicely—but it’s a decent appetizer to the summer comic-book-movie feast.