Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Green Hornet (2011)

Slacker superhero antics from Gondry and Rogen.

Image: Columbia Pictures

It’s taken a long time for the big screen remake of the cult TV show to get to cinemas. The Green Hornet went through several pairs of hands before ending up with the fantastic-sounding combination of Michel Gondry and Seth Rogen. The director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the star of Knocked Up working on a superhero comedy? Somehow even the 3D seemed promising. What would they come up with?

Britt Reid (Rogen) is a spoiled slacker who is partying his life away. But when his newspaper mogul father (Tom Wilkinson) dies from a bee sting, Britt starts to question his life choices. When he meets his dad’s mechanic/coffee guy/human Swiss Army Knife Kato (Jay Chou), the two decide to fight crime by posing as super-villains. This gets the attention of actual bad guy Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz).

The Green Hornet isn’t quite as weirdly wonderful as it sounded. It also falls far short of what multiplex audiences will be expecting in terms of a superhero action movie. It’s surprisingly slow, more than a little directionless, with an underwritten villain. There’s very little of what you could classify as distinctive Gondry-touches, although they are great when they do appear. Instead, he seems to have approached this as a director for hire.

That being said, the film is often very funny. Well, it will be for some audiences. The sense of humour is probably most easily comparable to that of Pineapple Express, Rogen’s stoner action movie. While the 12A certificate means that his usual schtick is (slightly) more kid-friendly, the free-form improvisation is present and correct which leads to big laughs. The Green Hornet may or may not have the re-watch value of Pineapple Express but it’s got big laughs in store for those who appreciate its sensibility. If you’re not a Rogen fan, this will not convert you, it will just irritate you.

Rogen plays Britt like a hyperactive kid, which leads to an on-and-off chemistry with Chou. The Taiwanese singer/songwriter/actor does well, displaying a light comedic touch to go with his martial arts skills. Waltz (Inglorious Basterds) is fun as the insecure Chudnofsky, who worries that his image isn’t scary enough, but is wasted by a script that gives him very little to do. Cameron Diaz does little with a nothing part as Britt’s new assistant, the only good joke involving her is about her age.

We do see occasional flashes of Gondry’s visual style. The slow-mo “Kato-vision” and the subsequent simplistic “Britt-vision” is a nice touch, while an increasingly ridiculous split screen sequence is hilarious. He handles the action with a sense of fun and the film is surprisingly violent for the 12A certificate. The script could have used some work; the whole second act is forgettable filler. What you will remember is the fantastic cameo early on, but we don’t want to wreck that.

How should we sum up The Green Hornet? One of the film’s best scenes has the duo singing along to Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise when setting out for their first mission. It’s goofy, you could ask what point it serves, but it’s an oddly awesome moment. And it’s very funny.

The appeal is narrow. If you happen to fall in that target audience, you’ll giggle like an idiot. If, more likely, not, you’ll wonder who gave them the money to make this.



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