The One Movie You Should See This Week

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Seth Rogen fights crime, Vince Vaughn fights good taste, and Paul Giamatti plays a schlub. Who gets your ticket money?

The Green Hornet

Director: Michel Gondry
Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz

When this project was first announced, I had several questions. Did anyone really care about the Green Hornet? Was there any reason to make a movie about him? And if so, was Michel Gondry the best choice to direct it? Having now seen The Green Hornet, I'm still not sure I have the answers to those questions, but Gondry's film does have its goofy charms, even though it never quite decides what kind of movie it wants to be. Seth Rogen is Britt Reid, a spoiled, rich party boy suggestive of what Bruce Wayne might have become had he not witnessed his parents' murder. That's an idea with potential, but then, The Green Hornet is full of ideas with potential; it just fails to develop any of them. When Reid, the heir to a media empire, joins forces with his mechanic/coffee maker Kato (Jay Chou), an expert in martial arts and all-around super-genius, the movie becomes a mismatched buddy comedy for a while. Eventually it morphs into a more-or-less straightforward superhero action flick as the duo battles crime kingpin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), complete with 3D effects, bullet-time fight scenes and plenty of pyrotechnics. By this point, The Green Hornet has squandered much of its potential, although there are flashes of the genius Gondry displayed in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, as in a flashback sequence with more cinematic flair than we're used to seeing in the doldrums of January. Still, "it's not the disaster I thought it would be" doesn't qualify as my highest recommendation.

The Dilemma

Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly

This is the sort of thing we're more accustomed to finding on the January release schedule: a formulaic, high-concept buddy comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James as characters very reminiscent of Vince Vaughn and Kevin James in many other movies. In this case, Vaughn is a swinging single guy who inadvertently learns that James' wife (Winona Ryder) is seeing another man. Sitcom-level complications no doubt ensue, prodded along by the direction of Academy-Award winner Ron Howard, who may be asked to give that Oscar back after this hits theaters. 

Barney's Version

Director: Richard J. Lewis
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman

After a subliminal Oscar-qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles last month, this adaptation of Mordecai Richler's novel about four decades in the life of a thrice-married schlub (Paul Giamatti) gets a limited release this week. Giamatti has already received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance as the titular Barney, and although that means nothing to those of us who put no stock in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, this certainly looks like a role the Sideways star can sink his teeth into. And how perfect is it that Dustin Hoffman and Giamatti are finally playing father and son? Given the slim pickings among the new releases — and the fact that I've already seen and cannot fully endorse The Green Hornet — this seems like the only real choice this week.

The One Movie You Should See This Week: Barney's Version