Seth Rogan has made a name for himself in Hollywood over the past few years by playing what is essentially the same character in every movie-the foul-mouthed, lovable stoner. Him, along with his writing partner Evan Goldberg and filmmaker Judd Apatow and his crack team of deadpan doofus performers have created a river of gold out of centering films around slacker characters-adult men who are perpetually stuck in adolescence if you will. When it was announced that Rogan would be donning the role of a superhero, well, I'm pretty confident in saying that I wasn't the only one with apprehensions. Rogan made his way around the interview circuit, playing up the fact that he had lost a tremendous amount of weight for the role. My feeling of trepidation was still unmoved. I just could not imagine Ken Miller from Freaks and Geeks in the role of a hero. This sense of uncertainty was not aided by the fact that Rogan's previous attempt at an action movie, Pineapple Express, was an absolute mess. My concerns were slightly sedated by the fact that Michel Gondry, maestro behind the wonderful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, was at the helm of the project, but I was ultimately still dubious.
Unfortunately, my concerns were proven correct. Penned by Rogan and Goldberg, the script is a disjointed melange of awkwardly lazy jokes and loud, tedious action sequences. Rogan plays Britt Reid, lethargic playboy son of a newspaper tycoon. Reid's scrupulous resentment towards his father is made obvious from the get go despite the fact that Reid's ambitions do not stem far beyond mooching as much from daddy as possible. After the death of his father and the bizarre discovery that the residence's mechanic Kato ( C-pop star Jay Chou) is a martial arts expert, Reid comes to the decision that the most fulfilling use of his time would be to form a crime fighting duo with Kato as his right-hand man. The team's plan is to methodically take out the city's scum under the guise of criminals. Eradicating crime by pretending to be criminals. Clever. Reid utilizes his father's newspaper as a way to exploit his misdeeds, and with the aid of his new assistant, Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), is able to catapult the reputation of his alter-ego, The Green Hornet, to unbelievable proportions.
The movie takes a deliberately light approach to the subject matter. The Green Hornet is no less a silly buddy comedy than Knocked Up. The difference between the two is that Knocked Up was written by someone with a penchant for creating likable characters. Rogan and Goldberg, while their style of comedy has its place, have not written a funny movie, and they haven't written characters here. They've written punch-line monkeys. None of the jokes are on a par with their best material. I chuckled once or twice and smiled maybe once more, but the majority of this film had me yearning for a time machine so I could experience Superbad for the first time again.
Perhaps I'm overly sensitive, but I felt that this movie had a real mean streak to it. As the Green Hornet, Reid disposes of petty criminals, drug peddlers and the like, in horrendous fashion. On top of that, Britt Reid is just about the least likable superhero in cinema history. Most films of this ilk have some sort of character development. Britt Reid enters the movie as a narcissistic egomaniac and he exits the movie as a narcissistic egomaniac. Kato isn't much more likable either. Since so much of the movie's focus is lent to loud action sequences, the lack of proper character development becomes a major issue. The cardinal rule of great action sequences is that the viewer should have something invested in the characters. Go back and watch Terminator 2 or Aliens again-those are movies that earn their action. The Green Hornet gives you a lot of BANG! WHIZ! BOOM! to gawk at, and not much else.
The supporting cast is mostly underwhelming. Jay Chou is mildly entertaining to watch in the role of Kato, a role once donned by Bruce Lee. He doesn't have the martial arts chops of his predecessor, but he sustains that portion of the role to a degree. His accent borders on unintelligible at points, which would be unfortunate, but I doubt we're missing much in the way of witty banter. Cameron Diaz doesn't have much time to do anything. She plays the romantic interest and the comedic foil, but her character, well character is too strong a word maybe-she doesn't do anything interesting, and I'll leave it at that. Chrisoph Waltz turns up as the film's villain, and he hams it up to the point of redundancy. Waltz graced the screens in Quentin Tarantino's revisionist war fantasy Inglourious Basterds as the villain, and he was easily the best part of that movie. Here, he's not half as memorable, but that probably has more to do with the fact that he's spouting Rogan and Goldberg dialogue this time and not Tarantino dialogue than anything else.
Director Michel Gondry has an interesting visual flair, but he can do better than this. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my favorite films of the last 15 years, and I'm aware that it's futile to compare this pile of rubbish to that movie, but it's a shame that his career has gone so far downhill. I genuinely hope he bounces back after this train wreck, and I hope the same for Seth Rogan and co. This movie stinks though. It really, really stinks.
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