FROM THE VAULT: Green Hornet

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Nostalgia is a double edged sword. In bringing the adventures of the Green Hornet and his trusty sidekick Kato to the big screen, things you loved can be irrevocably changed in order to appeal to a modern audience. So does this Hornet sting? Or does it get swatted?

Green Hornet
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, and Edward James Olmos
Writers: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
Director: Michel Gondry
Studio: Columbia Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year: 2011

Britt Reid(Seth Rogen). Millionaire. Playboy. Doesn’t have a goal in life other than to party. All of this changes when his father James(Tom Wilkinson) dies, and Britt decides to become a crime fighter, not to make his deceased father proud, but to show him what for. Teamed up with his fathers man-servant Kato(Jay Chou), and taking the guise of The Green Hornet, they terrorize the underworld. All while a mad Russian mobster named Chudnofsky(Christoph Waltz), wants to become a super-villain, and make the streets run red with blood. As the Green Hornet and Kato try to save the city together, they find themselves competing for the affections of Lenore Case(Cameron Diaz).

Under the pen of the movie’s star Seth Rogen, and writer Evan Goldberg, this Green Hornet is not the one I know. I wasn’t old enough watch the Van Williams and Bruce Lee show when it first aired, but over the years I’d catch a random episode or two, and I liked what I saw; a fun, often cheesy, but never the less, a entertaining show. I found this movie to be annoying, and amateurish at best.

Britt’s hatred of his father has consumed him so much, that on the first night out in a mask, he sets out to decapitate the memorial statue dedicated to his father. An act that, to me, is somewhat disturbing. Having a good relationship with my own father, I can’t relate with Britt’s patriarchal hatred, and of his need to give his dead father the middle finger. The fact that the Green Hornet stumbles into becoming a hero, rather than him being a noble person, is a direction that is disappointing. Are heroic people so unbelievable, that only a curly haired boob is an acceptable protagonist?

The direction of Michel Gondry, a director that did a simply amazing job on “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, turned in what I felt was a lazy job of directing this movie. The look and the pacing were stock, nothing popped out at me. I wasn’t expecting some high art take on the Green Hornet, but I was expecting it to be at least interesting. The choice to have Kato jump into a “pseudo-Matrix” mode when he did something incredible was jarring, and only served to take me out of the scenes in which it was used.

Seth Rogen’s portrayal of Britt Reid/Green Hornet was exactly what I didn’t want to see. He had no acting range, and seemed to not even attempt to break out of the “frat-brat” persona that is first set up, in order to attempt any sort of character arc. In the end he is supposed to be different, a changed man. But it’s like grade school arithmetic, unless you can show your math of how you got the answer, it doesn’t count.

Cameron Diaz was ill suited for her role as well. Cameron had no real energy, and her ability to convey such needed energy fell flat. To me, she seemed to old for this part. A youthful actress may have been able to give Lenore a spark, to make her the feisty go getter she needed to be. Rather than the matronly women looking for a job that I found in this movie. An actress such as Zooey Deschanel would have been much more suited for the part over Ms. Diaz.

Jay Chou as Kato was one of the few saving graces, his portrayal was likable and I empathized with him, unlike the way I didn’t with Rogen’s portrayal of Britt Reid. Though I liked his performance, his occasional inability to deliver dialogue clearly left me clamoring for subtitles, so that I could follow what was being said. It was very choppy, and I know Mr. Chou’s native tongue isn’t English, but the occasional vocal blip didn’t help at all.

Christoph Waltz, who portrayed the Jew Hunter in “Inglorious Basterds” does a admirable job here as the wanna-be super-villain Chudnofsky, or as he refers to himself later, “Bloodnofsky”. Near the end of the film you can tell that Waltz’s character has arced and matured, but he’s never really given a real chance to embrace that super-villain status. I saw what Waltz was able to do in “Inglorious Basterds”, and here he just seems to be nothing but wasted potential. It feels like they tried to make him into a Nick Cage style baddie that is over the top, but that’s not who Waltz is. Only Nick Cage should attempt to do a Nick Cage.

The lackluster performances of Tom Wilkinson and Edward James Olmos, was disheartening. Two great actors who seemed to be marooned with a weak script, and wanton directing, and they end up like living tumbleweeds, blowing through this fruitless landscape of celluloid.

FINAL VERDICT: CLIP THE HORNET’S WINGS

I went into this movie with a open mind. Not really knowing what to expect, but hopefully a good time. What I ended up with was a movie that had no idea how to have fun, or how to be witty. What you saw in the trailers is all they had. They spent all their best stuff in promotional materials, and that was a bad call.

Out of the whole movie I could find only one character to “latch on to” and that was Kato. He, unlike Britt, wasn’t a ninny or a burden to the movie’s plot. I honestly think the movie would have been much better if it had just focused on Kato rather than the Green Hornet. As for the movies other characters, they had no direction, no focus, and just didn’t have much heart at all. Those that were portraying them had the potential to do a much better job, but it sadly just didn’t pan out.

Coming off as a “Pineapple Express” with masks, a gas gun, and a fancy flame spewing car, the movie did nothing for me. Not a single thing about this movie made it stand out, and commanded me to take notice, other then the rampant flaws in character, plot, and direction.

In closing, Green Hornet receives 2 Stars, out of 5.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆