'The Green Hornet'
2 out of 4 stars
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz and Christoph Waltz.
Now playing at West Theatre and Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
Remember the paunchy comedian that starred in “Knocked Up” and “Pineapple Express” who made us laugh by playing an average guy whose greatest talent is spouting pithy rejoinders? Naturally, he needs to play a superhero in a movie, right? And to make it even better, he’ll still be funny.
Can’t fail, right?
Well, just take a look at “The Green Hornet” and see where that kind of thinking gets you.
As owner and publisher of The Daily Sentinel, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson) has been the leading voice of investigative journalism in Los Angeles, possessing a work ethic and dedication to exposing corruption like no other.
The same cannot be said of his son, Britt (Seth Rogen), a lazy, spoiled 28-year-old man-child with no drive to continue his father’s work, or to get involved in any line of work, for that matter.
But, like it or not, Britt has to step up and become an adult when James unexpectedly dies, though he has no idea how to run a newspaper and no desire to learn.
However, when he meets his dad’s handyman, Kato (Jay Chou), he has a flash of brilliance. Realizing his father’s desire to curb crime in the city, Britt decides to make his own contribution to fighting evil by becoming a vigilante dubbed The Green Hornet, helped along by the martial arts skills and technological expertise of Kato.
Using The Sentinel as a platform to call attention to his activities — posing as a villain so as not to attract unwanted hostility from real criminals — Britt and Kato soon become a force to be reckoned with.
But, the real challenge is yet to come, as the city’s most ruthless underworld ruler (Christoph Waltz) doesn’t take kindly to interference.
Rogen does pretty much exactly what you’d expect playing an over-privileged slacker turned hero of the streets. The fedora, trenchcoat and domino mask may be there, but complemented by his stocky build, inherently slow motility and exclamations like “Dude!” and “Awesome!” they hardly do anything to remind audiences of the classic character who has been part of pop culture longer than Superman, first showing up on the radio airwaves 75 years ago.
Taiwanese musician Chou is infinitely better as Kato, a levelheaded jack of all trades who makes up for his new partner’s lack of physical prowess with a fast-paced fighting fury and pinpoint analytical skills matched only by his talents as a master mechanic and a hobbyist barista. He even bests Britt when it comes to opening up a pair of beers, handling bottle caps like shuriken throwing stars.
As long as we’re talking about people who make the actual crime-fighter look inadequate, let’s not forget Cameron Diaz as Britt’s secretary, Lenore Case, who compiles crime statistics to unwittingly assist her boss in his endeavors, and Edward James Olmos, as Sentinel editor Mike Axford, whose decades of news experience haven’t given him the acumen to tell Britt not to stir up the local crime lords with constant Hornet coverage.
Waltz hardly has the same mix of repulsiveness and magnetism that he so flawlessly conveyed in “Inglourious Basterds,” but he still manages to make mob boss Benjamin Chudnofsky one scary gangster, wielding a double-barreled handgun and always on the lookout for constructive criticism on how he can be more menacing.
Rogen’s screenplay, penned with comedy partner Evan Goldberg, is a painful attempt to reinvent a story that didn’t need to be altered so much, specifically in making it an action comedy. His insistence at framing the Hornet as an immature clown leads us down a road chock-full of half-hearted jokes and zero insight.
Kato’s plight as the more talented of the duo, never receiving his due for his subservient nature or even having an identity beyond “the Hornet’s Chauffeur” — though Britt throws out quite a few, ranging from “Little Stinger” and “The Blue Wombat” — is only the beginning. But, where the story fails, the visual finesse of director Michel Gondry takes over, with the French filmmaker’s ability for fashioning eye-catching set pieces nearly compensating for the lack of humor.
Kato’s arsenal of specially designed gadgetry like the bulletproof sedan The Black Beauty — fully-loaded in more ways than one — and a firearm that launches emerald gas pellets that can knock you out for nearly a fortnight are fine eye candy, as is all the bric-a-brac that makes up the décor of Britt’s bedroom.
Still, this is nowhere something like Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and though it gets better as it goes, it never shakes the feeling that this is a slap-dash effort that could have been much better.
If you’re looking for top-notch entertainment, “The Green Hornet” is the way to go. That is, the 1960s TV version starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee.
But, if a turntable that pops out of the backseat of The Black Beauty to play Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” sounds like more of a draw than the original show’s theme, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,” you may have found your new favorite hero.
Now playing at the West Theatre and Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
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