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'The Green Hornet' Film Review: Seth Rogen Is Pleasantly Goofy, But Movie Fails to Take Off

9:00 PM PST 1/11/2011 by Michael Rechstshaffen

The Bottom Line

Despite some entertaining moments, this long-in-gestation crime-fighter feature never reaches top speed.

Released

January 14, 2011

 

Leaving behind a long list of previously attached talent from stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Jake Gyllenhaal to filmmaker Kevin Smith, the Black Beauty finally roars into theaters this weekend with Seth Rogen and Jay Chou behind the wheel and director Michel Gondry in charge of its course.

While the slick vehicle in question -- a seriously pimped-out Chrysler Imperial -- delivers the awe-inspiring goods, The Green Hornet itselfnever achieves sufficient traction to go the blockbuster distance.

Credit Rogen, who co-wrote the script with Evan Goldberg, and Gondry for attempting to take the 75-year-old radio serial (and mid-'60s TV series) in some fresh, irreverent directions. But the stop/start end result fails to sustain any satisfying momentum.

Rogen's fan base as well as the fanboys who were teased with footage in July at Comic-Con should ensure the picture has a decent opening, but it could fall short of generating sufficient buzz to spawn repeat business.

Originally debuting Jan. 31, 1936, on Detroit's WXYZ, The Green Hornet radio serial was the brainchild of Lone Ranger creator George W. Trendle, with the masked avenger's alter ego, Britt Reid, said to be the great nephew of the Lone Ranger.

Unsurprisingly, Britt, the playboy son of crusading Daily Sentinel publisher James Reid, has been retailored as a wide-eyed slacker to fit the Rogen persona. When his harshly judgmental dad (Tom Wilkinson) dies after what appears to be a fatal bee sting, Britt inherits his media empire, but he'd rather tool around with his father's trusted mechanic, Kato (Chou), in one of his tricked-out luxury cars.

Of course, it would be even cooler to pose as vigilantes who make like bad guys so they can infiltrate the actual evildoers' inner circle and blast 'em with Kato's gas gun.

Enter the Green Hornet.

It isn't that Gondry's direction and the languid Rogen-Goldberg script (the pair previously collaborated on Pineapple Express and Superbad) don't have their inspired moments -- like a sequence in which a Rogen discourse on the traditional balance of power between a superhero and his sidekick explodes into a volatile fight to the finish.

Too often, though, the dialogue has a habit of commenting on what has just happened in the previous scene, effectively stopping the action cold every time.

While definitely not cast in the classic comic book hero mold, the trimmed-down Rogen still brings a pleasantly goofy, everyman likability to the role. As Kato, Taiwanese pop star Chou proves equally charismatic, although his struggle with the English language makes some of his line readings tricky to decipher.

Proving tougher to get a grip on is the villainous Chudnofsky (Oscar-winning Inglourious Basterds scene-stealer Christoph Waltz) and Britt and Kato's chipper research assistant Lenore (a squandered Cameron Diaz), both of whom do their best with their underwritten characters.

Visually, with the exception of Gondry's dynamic "Kato-Vision" fight sequences (shot by John Schwartzman), the only other time the 3D conversion really comes to life is during the closing-credit pop art sequence.