When I originally heard that “The Green Hornet” was going to be adapted for today’s superhero crazed audiences I was somewhat skeptical but because Kevin Smith was attached to write and direct it, I had a lot of hope. That was 2004. Since then, Smith left the project and numerous writers, directors and actors have been attached to the property to do something with it.
The involvement of director Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) with Seth Rogen (Knocked Up) as his leading man did little to allay my fears. To be honest it kind of frightened me to no end and by the time principal photography began one could say that I was past the point of skepticism and into full on belief that this Green Hornet film would be a train wreck of epic proportions.
Based on the radio serial started in 1936, “The Green Hornet” is the tale of Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), a self-centered jerk, who is thrust into running the family newspaper business after the death of his father. While grieving Britt makes friends with his father’s former mechanic, the mysterious Kato (Jay Chou) and the two end up in a situation where they accidentally thwart a mugging. This of course leads Britt to realize that he has been wasting his potential and with Kato’s help he transitions into a the masked vigilante, the Green Hornet.
As I sat in the theater, expecting the film to turn into a colossal failure at each turn, something odd happened. I was having fun. It started out with a smirk during an early scene that involved an inspired cameo from an uncredited James Franco and eventually evolved into me just having one hell of a good time while watching it.
“The Green Hornet” is a throwback to when superheroes were not overly serious and had a bit of camp to them. And the best thing about the film’s tenor though is that it knows just how goofy it actually is and runs with it. The film never strays into the “Batman: The Movie” shark-repellent type camp but it keeps a fun tone to it, something too many recent superhero films fail to do.
“The Green Hornet” is not on the same level as “Iron Man” or “The Dark Knight” but then again it is not trying to be. Gondry and Rogen know this and together deliver an action comedy that puts many other superhero films to shame. Simply put they have fun with the material and that translates to the audience having fun watching it.
The main attraction of the film is of course the dynamic between Britt Reid and Kato. Rogen has excellent chemistry with Chou making the partnership both believable and funny. The two are able to work off of each other both through dialog and physical comedy. Without this chemistry the film would have been the failure I originally thought it would be. But as much fun as I had while watching “The Green Hornet” though, it was not enough to mask some overarching issues that detract from the quality of the film, if not from my enjoyment. For one, the main villain, Chudnofsky (Christoph Walz) is tragically under-developed. Aside from a film-long gag about him not being a terrifying villain, he is really just a card board cut-out for the Green Hornet to knock down.
Under developed characters do not stop with the main villain though. DA Scanlon (David Harbour) is about as one-dimensional as you can get and Britt’s supposed love interest Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) is generally used as nothing more than a convenient plot device to solve any and all problems that arise throughout the film. And while the acting is generally serviceable all the way around. I also found it quite hard to buy Diaz in her role. She seemed entirely flat and considering everyone else in the film seems to be having the time of their lives, Diaz’s Case is something of a buzz kill.
“The Green Hornet” is ultimately more fun than it is technically good. But at the end of the day one should not walk into “The Green Hornet” expecting anything more than to be entertained. Sometimes entertaining is all a movie needs to be.
4 out of 5