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HomeBlogPopcorn Parent Movie ReviewsMovie Review: The Green Hornet (PG-13)

Movie Review: The Green Hornet (PG-13)

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Seth Rogen shows you don’t need a cape, or a scowl, to play the hero

by Jared Peterson

Being a billionaire playboy kind of rocks: fast cars, invisible servants, hot- and cold-running bimbos—and plenty of free time to pursue high-tech vigilante justice. Stamped in the Bruce Wayne mold, but in a much softer material, Britt Reid is the über-rich heir to a newspaper fortune (this is, after all, a fantasy). Played by Seth Rogen—significantly slimmed down from previous appearances, but still the same old loveable slacker—Reid parties hard, sleeps in and drifts through life, all to the withering disappointment of his stern father (Tom Wilkinson). When Dad dies suddenly, apparently from an allergic reaction to a bee sting, Britt takes a good look at his aimless existence. He then meets (or, rather, bothers to notice) Kato (Jay Chou), the household handyman and cappuccino artist, and recognizes in him a true diamond in the rough. Kato’s casual hobbies—kung fu, bulletproof glass, weapons design—signal vast, untapped potential and give rise to a cunning plan: The two will gear up and become masked superheroes.

Sure, this kind of scheme has been hatched before. But while most would-be heroes would open another bag of Cheetos and listen to “Dark Star” again, these two follow through. They use Reid’s paper, the Daily Sentinel, to drum up sensationalized outlaw personas, the better to move unpredictably within the criminal underworld. Then they load up a slick Chrysler Imperial with weapons and gadgets and take to the night to bash thugs and lowlifes into submission. Well, Kato does—Britt mostly ducks for cover. It’s not long before they’re in over their heads, drawing the dead-eyed attention of Chudnofsky (Oscar winner Christoph Waltz), a cold-blooded crime boss looking to consolidate his power and cultivate a his own villainous brand name. They also uncover a conspiracy that may have been the real cause of Reid’s father’s death.

If you like Seth Rogen, you’ll probably have some fun at The Green Hornet. He co-wrote the script with Evan Goldberg, his partner on Superbad and The Pineapple Express, and it’s full of the same kinds of chuckling witticisms and improvised asides. Rogen shakes up the increasingly morose masked avenger tradition by… well, by being Seth Rogen. He knows more than anyone that he doesn’t belong in a superhero movie. He also knows that fact alone is pretty funny, and we’re never allowed to forget that the whole thing is fairly ridiculous. Both Pineapple Express and Green Hornet are fish-out-of-water affairs; they drop a lumbering class-clown type into a hyperbolic genre setting (Pulp Fiction, Batman Begins) and let things unspool. And it’s worked—you can bet that for the last couple of years dozens of movie pitches around Hollywood have started with, “Okay, what would happen if Seth Rogen…”

Though Britt Reid is hardly an Everyman, he reacts to his situation the same way we all might. Just imagine if Bruce Wayne actually realized how flipping awesome it is to be Batman. Britt gapes and gasps at every gadget in Kato’s homemade arsenal like a kid at a post-Christmas sleepover. He blasts “Gangsta’s Paradise” on the sound system of their tricked-out supercar. In short, he has fun. Poor Batman had to work nights; The Hornet gets to stop and smell the roses.

Boys-at-heart are often boys-in-mind, and the puerile whimsy leaves some things to be desired. The jokey tone is relatable but unrelenting, and it sometimes undercuts our own reactions—Rogen says what we’re thinking, but he almost always beats us to it. There is no real emotional center to the story, though, in fairness, none is really needed. This is all about the toys. And nearly every interaction between Britt and Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz, looking like she’s waiting for her paycheck to clear), his assistant at the Sentinel, has “sexual harassment lawsuit” written all over it.

The film doesn’t look or feel like it comes from Michel Gondry, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A big-budget and an extra dimension (the movie is presented in 3-D) might have afforded some unique opportunities for his brand of playful surreality, but the demands of the genre seem to overpower him. The 3-D experience is fairly anemic, as often happens these days—the technology sometimes allows little more than the dynamic display of racked focus. (“Behold as blurry things become clear… in midair!!!”)

The Green Hornet is rated PG-13. The violence is mainly stylized and sometimes cartoonish; sometimes it’s not, and people get crushed, maimed or impaled. The heroes themselves flirt with a non-lethal approach, but still manage to kill more bad guys than they spare. There is pervasive profanity and the aforementioned gender insensitivity. True to labeling, kids over 13 will likely have a good time—and those about to get their driver’s licenses may have some pointed questions about the optional rocket launcher package.

 

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