Movies

Ten Critical Thoughts About… The Green Hornet

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Highly specific observations on the Seth Rogen superhero comedy.

With The Green Hornet, Seth Rogen and Michel Gondry have excavated an old superhero whose origins date back to a radio series. In the update, Rogen is Britt Reid, a rich, hard-partying playboy who, after assuming control of his dead father's media empire, hatches a Prince Hal-like scheme: to become a hero by pretending to be a villain.

1. Michel Gondry directed this?
I had no idea about this until the opening credits told me, and I still have my doubts. What business does this left-of-the-dial oddball have directing a 3-D superhero flick, anyway? As it turns out, very little. This is more of a Rogen movie than a Gondry one, so expect to see more Apatowy bromance (that's Rogen's Native American name) and less commentary on the human subconscious.

2. If The Green Hornet is 3-D, Avatar is, like, 9-D.
The only 3-D things about this movie are the glasses you'll have to wear and the money you'll have to pay. Really, I think it's time for the studios to start being more protective of the designation "3-D," much in the same way that French vintners closely guard the word "Champagne."

3. Awww, Reid's father made his fortunes in the newspaper industry.
And the villain is Russian, and there's a centralized Criminal Underworld (do they get union benefits?), and the local paper sends out crusading journalists committed to exposing the corrupt core of the city. This really is from the 1930s!

4. Sometimes I imagine Seth Rogen as a living Beavis.
They both have uncouth senses of humor, share a penchant for goofy violence and/or all things "kick-ass," and love talking about women more than they love talking to women. I mean, even their hairstyles are the same. Does anybody know if Beavis was Jewish?

Jay Chou in The Green Hornet5. So, who is this Jay Chou?
Kato, Green Hornet's whiz-kid partner in crime-fighting, has a big role in the movie, and his friendship/servitude/rivalry becomes an endearing storyline. But in real life, this thickly accented man is Jay Chou, apparently a multi-platinum Taiwanese pop star and four-time winner of the World Music Award, which sounds made-up but isn't. So why is he slumming it in this weird little American movie? Probably in hopes that The Green Hornet's inevitably mediocre domestic box-office performance will be offset by all that money it'll make in Asia.

6. You can't really beat The Jew Hunter when it comes to villainy.
Christoph Waltz, best known as S.S. Colonel Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds, is once again the enemy here, playing the gangster Chudnofsky. But unless he goes on to do a really good Hitler or bin Laden, I think we can safely assume that every post-Landa baddie he plays will feel less-than.

7. Thank God Cameron Diaz didn't have to do anything.
Cameron Diaz plays Reid's secretary. Cameron: just sit there, smile, and don't touch anything. Fine, we'll make the secretary unexpectedly smart, but that's it. Sit tight, be fawned over, and, again, please don't touch anything.

8. Things kind of lose steam halfway in.
That is to say, the movie picks up tons of steam in the second half — noisy, chaotic steam. After a charming, often funny, and actually interesting beginning, the movie descends into the type of action-sequence anarchy that makes this viewer's eyes glaze over.

9. There's a super awesome cameo!
From a super awesome actor! But to keep the surprise intact, I'll only call him James F. No, no, that's too easy — let's call him J. Franco. Anyway, J____s F____o's brief appearance is probably one of the movie's better moments.

10. But do we really need The Green Hornet?
For every emo superhero movie like The Dark Knight, we get a few jokey and "irreverent" ones, like Kick-Ass and Megamind. This is just another one of the latter. And ultimately, Rogen and Gondry's take on the genre feels like it exists for no other reason than to exist.