Although “The Green Hornet” suffers from bouts of identity crisis and lack of restraint, it manages to utilize its leads to create an often-hilarious action-comedy that brings something original to the superhero genre.
As a self-professed comic geek, I was surprised I had never heard of the Green Hornet when the movie was announced. Learning the character originated from a radio show in the ’30s, which was later turned into a ’60s television show starring Bruce Lee rather than a comic book, came as another shock. Given this strange choice of source material and a production mired with obstacles such as a director change, major casting switches and several delays, I expected the movie to be typical January trash. However, I discovered that “The Green Hornet” is a serviceable popcorn flick with wide appeal to fans of both the comedy and action genres.
Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up,” “Pineapple Express”) plays the character of the spoiled Britt Reid. Son to successful newspaper mogul James Reid, Britt spends his time throwing massive parties and bedding random women. When his father passes away, Britt stumbles onto James’ human “Swiss army knife,” the charming Kato (Jay Chou). From here antics ensue as an accidental act of heroism causes them to don the guise of superheroes in an attempt to do something worthwhile with their lives.
The dynamic between Rogen and Chou is often funny, and though Chou’s grasp of the English language is loose at best, it lends itself to a sort of rare charm that makes Kato even more likeable. It’s impressive to see Chou, a Taiwanese pop star, handle his action scenes with the finesse of a trained martial artist. Rogen, who co-wrote the script, does an equally entertaining job balancing his character’s inherent obnoxiousness with flashes of humor without stooping to the bathroom jokes of his previous works. The frenetic visual style of French Director Michel Gondry, famous for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” is toned down for this movie but manages to shine through during Kato’s action scenes and the flash back sequences.
However, the movie is not without its faults. Originally starring Nicolas Cage, Christoph Waltz was a last minute replacement as the highly self-conscious villain Chudnofsky. Despite a hilarious opening sequence starring an un-credited James Franco, Chudnofsky isn’t given enough screen time to be as funny as the role would suggest, wasting a potential source of comedy.
The film jumps between being a comedy and an action movie with alarming inconsistency. Though the film manages to hit a consistent stride in its third act, too many plot threads give the movie a choppy feel that is strange given the amount of talent involved.
The throwaway role given to Cameron Diaz, who serves as the mutual love interest between Britt and Kato, is barely worth a mention, not because of a poor performance but rather the lack of dialogue and screen time given to develop her character.
Despite these faults, “The Green Hornet” left a good impression. The unique portrayal of having the sidekick as the competent one is more typical of butler movies (think “Arthur” or P.G. Woodhose’s “Jeeves” series) than the superhero genre, and gives this movie a fresh feeling. It’s a fun movie above anything else and develops characters without descending into heavy-handed drama. If you’re looking for a movie that’s both entertaining and sporadically exciting, then “The Green Hornet” is an easy recommendation for a casual movie-going experience.