The Good: Moments of humor, Decent character arcs, Special effects are fine
The Bad: Utterly predictable plotting, Mediocre acting, Uncertain footing.
The Basics: When Seth Rogen helps to create a super hero flick, The Green Hornet rides onto the screen leaving the viewer utterly indifferent.
The last few days, my wife and I have been having a minor conflict. The conflict is pretty simple: I just ended a five-week work stint that took me away from her, except on the weekends, and she has wanted a lot of my time since I returned home. For her, this has meant a daily desire to go to the local casinos. For me, it has meant a desire to catch up on my work and go see new movies. After a few days of going to casinos to keep her happy, I put my foot down and insisted I was going out to the movies. This meant I went alone. This might not all seem germane to an opening for my review of The Green Hornet (originally, I planned to write about how Kevin Smith must be pissed), but there is relevance here. The first is that had my wife accompanied me, I might have enjoyed The Green Hornet more; I always seem to like mediocre things more when I share them with my wife because she is not as critical as I am (conversely, if she had been as bored with the film as I was, odds are it would have suffered even more in my review!). The other thing is that if my wife and I had the wealth of the protagonist of The Green Hornet, I seriously doubt we'd argue so much about movies vs. casinos. I think we'd have no problem doing both. Either way, I find myself regretting using my time out without her on such an unremarkable movie.
The Green Hornet is the latest in a long string of super hero films (apparently before Alien Invasion films take over in 2011) and it was co-written by its star, Seth Rogen. This works to the detriment of the film as Rogen is clearly writing for himself and does not push himself - or his friend, James Franco, who makes an enjoyable early cameo - in any direction we have not seen him go before. In other words, Rogen writes the jokes one would expect out of Seth Rogen and this is the equivalent of Sylvester Stallone co-writing Rocky, the actor performs exactly within the range we expect of him without ever leaving the comfortable box of our preconceptions.
That said, The Green Hornet suffers most because the movie is nothing new. Between last year's Kick-Ass (reviewed here!) and the Batman franchise, there is nothing presented in The Green Hornet that is at all shocking, new or interesting. Indeed, perhaps the better comparison would be Iron Man (reviewed here!) meets Kick-Ass. The Green Hornet is Kick-Ass where the protagonist is not in high school and has a budget that matches his ambitions. Unfortunately, The Green Hornet lacks the excitement or gritty realism of Kick-Ass and it is that much more likely to disappoint viewers as a result. There is a formulaic quality to The Green Hornet and the only thing shocking within the context of the action hero/super hero origin story is the dialogue . . . except to those who have seen any Seth Rogen films. This leaves viewers entirely unsurprised.
When Danny Clear tries to muscle out Chudnofsky to establish a criminal enterprise in Los Angeles, Clear meets with an untimely end and the local newspaper, The Daily Sentinel writes about it on the front page. The owner and editor-in-chief of The Daily Sentinel is James Reid, an amazingly rich man whose main bone to pick in life comes in the form of his son, Britt. Britt parties, sleeps and slouches through his life, coasting on his father's dime until the day James dies of a bee sting. With James's death, Britt inherits The Daily Sentinel and the responsibility he never wanted.
But when his search for his daily cup of perfect coffee leads him to Kato, a mechanic his father used to employ for his massive car collection, Britt takes his recklessness to a new level. After decapitating his father's statue, Britt and Kato get into an altercation where they rescue two people from a gang, leaving a lot of damage in their wake. Britt decides to use The Daily Sentinel to bring hype to his nighttime activities - his alter ego is dubbed The Green Hornet in a meeting - and Britt and Kato begin a nightly war on crime and gangs in Los Angeles. This raises the ire of Mike Axford, the intellectual heir to The Daily Sentinel, and Chudnofsky, who sees his control of the gangs slipping. As Britt attempts to clean up the streets, he finds himself uncovering uncomfortable truths about his dead father and the District Attorney, all of which may spell the end to the Green Hornet!
The Green Hornet is a mix of action film and comedy and, unfortunately, it does not live up to its potential on either front. On the humor front, The Green Hornet is very much a typical Seth Rogen comedy. Rogen plays a mild-mannered man who likes to party and has moments where he is deeply sarcastic. His humor comes out in mumbles, undertones and with the generally agreeable persona one might expect from Seth Rogen. In other words, Britt Reid is not particularly likable or special, but Rogen is and as a result, the viewer is expected to forgive him his drinking, sleeping around and ridiculous pursuit of Lenore, when she finally arrives in the movie.
Lenore, played by Cameron Diaz, is certainly a step back on all fronts. It introduces into The Green Hornet a pretty obvious romantic triangle issue for Britt and Kato and forces a character conflict that did not have to be present. The buddy action hero movie is usurped in its second half by a series of canned plot events that put Britt chasing after the obvious, stereotypical blonde while Kato attracts her using his superior intellect. The result is a predictable series of misunderstandings between Britt and Kato which threaten to push apart the newly-formed crime-fighting duo.
Indeed, the only real plus for The Green Hornet on the plot and character fronts are the whole idea that the sidekick is the powerhouse of this crime fighting duo. Britt is constantly plagued by his father's "Trying doesn't matter when you always fail" ringing constantly in his ears. Kato is the one other person in the world who saw that less-than-savory side of James Reid. As such, Kato has implemented Reid's paranoid visions for car protection and is prepared when Britt wants to become the Green Hornet. But Kato is both the brains and the brawn of the Green Hornet and his inevitable split with Britt is therefore that much more dangerous to the duo.
Chudnofsky is a pretty generic villain and even as the film pokes fun at that, it remains true and is troubling to find interest in him as a result.
Ultimately, what keeps viewers watching The Green Hornet are the gadgets, the tools and the high speed deployment of them. The fight sequences are fun and the movie tries (though it does a whole Daredevil way of looking at things that is odd) to be engaging on the action-adventure front. But in the end, The Green Hornet is nothing truly new for fans of action comedies.
For other works with Seth Rogen, check out my reviews of:
Monsters Vs. Aliens
Freaks And Geeks
For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.