Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Green Hornet
At Least The Movie's Logo Looks Nice. 

Sony Pictures

by Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW
Sunday, January 16, 2011

Never have I felt as removed from a film thus far in 2011 as with "The Green Hornet", which opened on Friday.  The 1960s namesake TV series featured Bruce Lee as Kato, with Van Williams playing Britt Reid.  Mr. Lee wasn't really a sidekick -- he packed a kick -- and a wallop, on the occasions he was on screen.  The new "Hornet" packs little more than a whimper. 

As directed by Mr. Gondry, a creative wizard with wonderfully imaginative visuals ("The Science Of Sleep", "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind"), "The Green Hornet" material -- or lack thereof -- subsumes him and the film itself.

Seth Rogen plays the new Britt Reid, the inheritor of The Daily Sentinel publishing empire from his harsh, tough-love and deceased father (Tom Wilkinson).  Britt never grows up.  He's a Toys 'R' Us kid.  And not one credible change hits Britt throughout the entire arc of the film.  He has major daddy issues, and Kato has to be Britt's father as well.  Kato was apparently more of a son to Britt's father than Britt ever was, but why?  We neither truly know nor care, because the film is too busy lampooning the superhero genre.  The relevant actors parody crime-fighting comic-book type heroes and villains.  There are parts of "The Green Hornet" (awful in 3D and awful without it) that want so much to emulate "Iron Man".

You can almost see the actors thinking: what should I do or say next?  Especially Mr. Rogen, whose acting compass was stolen by the poorly constructed script he and Evan Goldberg wrote.  Jay Chou plays Kato, and while his character is animated, he isn't interesting, either.  Everything about "The Green Hornet" is lazy and expediently condensed, tossed against the wall.  None of it sticks.  I found this film sad, tin-pot entertainment.  I couldn't even muster a single laugh, and I was in a very good mood.

"The Green Hornet" simply isn't an entertainment that is memorable.  The film alienates rather than engages.  Vacuous, the film gives us no one to care for.  Not that you need to root, but if there's nothing for an audience to invest in, there's little incentive for an audience to care.  Britt's a brat who knows or cares little about the outside world around him.  Kato barely has an allegiance or a purpose other than to make coffee and save Britt's skin.  If Kato can take care of himself -- and he clearly can -- then why on earth doesn't he ditch this shiftless heir and break out on his own?  Stop making coffee for him, Kato!  Stop!  In the name of the law!

Seth Rogen as Britt Reid and Jay Chou as Kato in Michel Gondry's "The Green Hornet".

The Los Angeles district attorney Scanlon (David Harbour) is a stock figure.  Shallow, perhaps venal.  As laid out, the scenarios involving him are preposterous.  Cameron Diaz plays Britt's secretary Lenore Case.  Ms. Diaz's ineffectual work here is upholstered to separate the juvenile testosterone that barks loudly, eating away at two valuable hours of your life.  If you can avoid having to sit in a theater in stony silence you'd be well-advised to do so.  Watch instead films like "Kick-Ass" or the first "Austin Powers" or, better yet, "Spider-Man 2".  At least there's a bit more going for them.

In short, there's little imagination girding "The Green Hornet".  The gadgets and cars are dropped into place.  The super-caffeinated Mr. Rogen, whose Britt is a bundle of nerves and neuroses, spouts one unfunny run-on punch-line after another.  The cantankerous offerings don't give "The Green Hornet" any rhythm.  The film doesn't dance.  It doesn't charm.  It's muddled, with pace and tone changes in the middle of nowhere and everywhere. 

Heck, "The Green Hornet" fails to even fulfill or live up to the dynamic and flashy decor of its cars.  The endeavors of the actors on screen are predicated upon bringing the lowest level of interest to what their characters' functions are.  And that's true even though the film is clearly geared as a comedy, and not a brooding, nuanced work like "The Dark Knight".  Even Christoph Waltz, a fine actor, looks as if he's bored to tears as the principal villain.  Spoken lines, including those meant to poke fun, don't elicit any risible humor.  A cameo by one actor near the start is promising, until the film sabotages itself, abandoning the only half-decent effort being made on its own behalf.

You may laugh at some of this film but you'll cry afterwards for laughing.  Watching "The Green Hornet" is akin to watching a super computer spank you at chess.  You want to stop the computer from beating you senseless, but you can't.  You're held hostage.  And you're seething with fury, because there's little you can do about it, except abandon it.  You want to abandon Mr. Gondry's film because it has long since abandoned you.

Mr. Gondry ("The Thorn In My Heart") has an vivacious and distinct invention in his films but here it's desperately absent.  "The Green Hornet" has bit him, and you feel the sting. 

With: Edward James Olmos, Jamie Harris, Chad Coleman, Edward Furlong.

"The Green Hornet" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content.  The film's running time is one hour and 58 minutes.

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