The Green Hornet is one of those brilliant projects that, when you first heard about it, you made a noise something like, "Whuuuhhh?" Seth Rogen - Tubby Funster™ extraordinaire - playing a superhero, directed by Michel Gondry? Now that I gotta see, right?
Bad buzz (pardon the delicious pun) and an unnecessary 3D conversion suggested that the studio didn't have much faith in Rogen's abilities to topline a hero flick, so they kicked the Hornet into the January release slot wasteland. Shame, because it's a fun movie that'll be a refreshing antidote to the countless other sure-to-be smug superhero films released this year. I'm looking at you, Captain America.
The story is basically Batman's back-story, minus the camp, with a less-gay male duo. Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is living a life of luxury as the son of a newspaper magnate when pappy (Tom Wilkinson) dies in suspicious circumstances. Despondent, Reid bonds with former house-help Kato (Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou) who turns out to be something of a whiz with machines, cars and, er, coffee. Somehow, they come to the conclusion that the best use of their time would be to pose as criminal masterminds to get close to bad guys, then whomp their asses in slow-mo fight scenes.
Written by Rogen and partner Evan Goldberg (Superbad), it's precisely as lowbrow as you might think - a bonus in my eyes, because if you can't enjoy yourself writing a superhero movie about a billionaire playboy jonesing for some post-dead-dad adrenaline, there's no helping you. The Green Hornet is juvenile at times ("Three words: suck on it, dickface!") but it's kind of endearing. The joke is that Britt Reid reacts to the usual superhero clichés exactly how you'd expect Seth Rogen to react; usually with cute, wide-eyed amazement ("That is sooo coool!") or that grunted laugh of his.
Crucial to the movie's success is the chemistry between Rogen and Chou, a by-product you imagine of producer Rogen's wont to hire a potential friend as well as a co-star. Call it a 'bromance' if you must (do it outside), but you totally buy that Reid and Kato would bond; first over their shared dislike of Reid Snr, then over their mutual excitement at playing tough guys. The only thing that isn't easy to swallow is the leap from "Let's go do something crazy!" to forming a crime-fighting duo, and not just, say, putting traffic cones on their heads and saying "Look at me I'm a giant witch!"
All I would say is that, while Rogen succeeds in playing it strictly for laughs, the action scenes aren't quite as polished as you'd like (often because most consist of Kato flipping out for 8 seconds, while Rogen kicks the prone baddies in the face). The Green Hornet never really feels like a 'Michel Gondry film' - there's precious little invention apart from a few neat split-screen techniques and one (nonsensical) Kato-vision effect. Otherwise, the non-3D is the movie's biggest missed opportunity - Gondry will make a spectacular 3D movie one day, but this isn't it.
Ramp up the action, remove Cameron Diaz's pointless character entirely, shoot it all in 3D and give Gondry free reign to go full-on French loony: then you'd have a four-star Green Hornet movie. As it is, it's a fun distraction; a pleasingly average superhero movie whose greatest triumph is avoiding disaster. It does have a bloody good car in it, though.