by Ryan Hill
In Michel Gondry’s “The Green Hornet,” Britt Reid, the millionaire newspaper tycoon played by Seth Rogen, is first shown as a child being scolded by his father. Reid, holding his favorite action figure, watches in horror as his father (Tom Wilkinson) takes the toy away and rips its head off. As a result, Reid becomes a party boy, rebelling against his father’s uptight ways. All because a toy was broken. So begins the train wreck that is “The Green Hornet.”
Britt Reid does nothing with his life but party and hook up with women until his father dies of an apparent allergic reaction to a bee sting. Then, in a drunken escapade with his father’s mechanic Kato (played by Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou) one night, Reid watches as Kato easily dispatches some goons who are trying to mug a woman. Though he had nothing to do with breaking up the mugging, Reid thinks it would be a great idea to become a superhero, which he names the Green Hornet. The catch is that the Green Hornet will pose as a villain.
If this was 2002 and the comic book/superhero movie genre was still just getting ramped up, “The Green Hornet” might’ve been a good movie. Its plot, which is a carbon-copy of every superhero origin story made in the last 10 years, would have seemed fresh instead of stale and paint-by-numbers and the jokes may not have fallen so flat.
Rogen, who along with co-writer Evan Goldberg wrote the comedy classic “Superbad” and the stoner action-comedy “Pineapple Express,” have concocted a generic, unfunny script that seems so intent on hitting all the beats a superhero movie should that it feels like everyone involved is being smothered, especially Gondry, the film’s visionary director.
Gondry, who has directed some wildly creative films over his career, including “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and the mediocre but wholly original “The Science of Sleep” and “Be Kind Rewind,” clearly must’ve been enticed by the paycheck to direct “The Green Hornet.” They may not all be as good as “Sunshine,” but Gondry has a vision and style distinctly his own, and in “Hornet” it’s all but missing as Gondry must’ve been sitting in the director’s chair counting his money, á la Gus Van Sant in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.” It’s the only explanation for why he would go slumming in this studio picture, though he isn’t the only guilty party.
Christoph Waltz, who last year won an Academy Award for his epic performance as the villainous Col. Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds,” again plays the villain in “Hornet,” but instead of being a suave, terrifying monster like he was in “Basterds,” he’s your standard movie villain with nothing to set him apart from every clichéd villain out there except for a double-barreled .357. He at least has more to do here than Cameron Diaz who, as Reid’s secretary, literally does nothing more than work late except for a very short date with Kato that doesn’t end well.
The only redeeming parts of “The Green Hornet” are the rare instances when Gondry is allowed to unleash his imagination, most notably in the creation of “Kato vision,” which shows how the iconic valet sees things as he dispatches of would-be evildoers.
Were it not for the hefty paydays for everyone involved, “The Green Hornet” would have remained in development hell, where it had been living for the past 20 years and should’ve continued living for the rest of eternity. If Seth Rogen wants to make another action-comedy, he better make sure it starts with the words “Pineapple” and “Express,” otherwise he’d be smart to stay far, far away.