Films based on existing properties carry baggage. Those who have no previous experience with said property look at it differently than fans. While the former can look at it with a blank slate and no preconceived notions, the latter group, at least to some extent, expects it to follow the property’s traditional formula. It is this stark divide that will keep The Green Hornet from reaching major success. Irritated echoes that it was nothing like the old television and radio shows rang throughout the theater as the film came to a close. I can’t vouch for that claim because my ignorance with the franchise stretches far. I fit snugly into the no-previous-experience crowd, which allowed me to enjoy it for what it was, though it’s still a messy movie that comes just shy of being recommendable.
The story is mighty familiar. It follows a rich kid who has just inherited his family’s wealth after the death of his father and decides to throw on a mask and clean up the mean streets. The rich kid this time (as opposed to Bruce Wayne) is named Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), who suddenly finds himself in charge of his father’s renowned newspaper, The Sentinel, which he uses to spread the news of his alter ego, The Green Hornet. His sidekick (and former coffee maker), Kato (Jay Chou) is the brains behind the duo and is able to build useful crime fighting tools, not the least of which includes installing as many deadly weapons as their car, The Black Beauty, can hold.
The villain is played by recent Oscar winner, Christoph Waltz, whose brilliance in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds is toned down here in favor of witty one-liners and goofy mannerisms that stem mostly from the character’s inferiority complex—his desire to be scarier than others. Even when he isn’t on top of his game, however, Waltz charms. Without exception, he is the best thing about The Green Hornet, despite a serious lack of screen time in the first hour.
There’s also little problem with the rest of the cast. Chou may not fully have a grip on the English language, but it isn’t readily noticeable. His comedic timing is surprisingly accurate and he doesn’t stumble through his lines like, say, Jackie Chan. Cameron Diaz, who plays Reid’s newly hired secretary and criminology expert, is good too, though it’s apparent her blonde bombshell days are coming to an end at nearly 40 years old. Seth Rogen is where The Green Hornet falters. Although he has the party boy/funny man side of his character down pat, he isn’t entirely convincing as a superhero. To be fair, his character isn’t given much to do, but that’s what makes him so uninteresting. He’s savvy in neither brains nor brawn, so most of his time spent in battle is behind cover or kicking people while they’re down.
Kato is undoubtedly the star of the show, showcasing skills that Reid simply doesn’t have, but his abilities go beyond what any normal person can do, which include apparent robotic vision and super human speed. It all comes off as a tad ridiculous, but I suspect that was the point. In a cinematic world where superhero movies are becoming increasingly darker, The Green Hornet plays lighthearted and fun. It’s a nice change of pace, but this approach proves to lack the depth of films like The Dark Knight or Watchmen.
The Green Hornet is one of director Michel Gondry’s most straightforward efforts, but this type of content seems beneath him. Rather than play with ideas like in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Be Kind Rewind, he is forced to go through the same old song and dance we’ve seen countless times. While certainly no slouch staging action scenes, a skill he isn’t too familiar with, they are still never fully engaging. The ending offers up the most excitement, but by that point, the film had already worn out its welcome. There is an impressive resume behind this thing, but it means very little in what amounts to nothing more than mediocrity. The Green Hornet may only be a minor waste of time, but it’s a complete waste of talent.
The Green Hornet receives 2.5/5