The Green Hornet
Coolest extra: “Writing The Green Hornet” featurette (DVD/Blu-ray)
Complex says: The strangest thing about Seth Rogen’s passion project, The Green Hornet, is how out of place he seems throughout.
Nearly an hour into the movie, which is based on a radio, comic book, and TV property that dates back to the 1930s, director Michel Gondry (the uniquely visual mastermind behind Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) stages one of the film’s wild fight scenes with spunk; as Gondry’s camera pans from side-to-side in a single take, Kato (Hornet’s kung fu-practicing sidekick, played by Jay Chou), takes out three goons with a series of slowed-down and sped-up jumps and spin kicks. Rather than allowing the scene’s impact to sink in, Rogen gets in a kick of his own, saying, “Eat my foot, bitch!” And that, folks, is the level of wit The Green Hornet possesses.
As Britt Reid, the millionaire, carefree son of a recently deceased newspaper publisher inherits his father’s company and becomes a makeshift crime fighter, Rogen is up to his usual antics. Wisecracks, dirty jokes, and manic mannerisms define his performance here, which normally works for the funnyman; in The Green Hornet, though, his style of comedy gets buried underneath the movie’s better yet underused parts. Taiwanese pop star Chou owns as Kato, selling each hyper-stylized action scene (shown through Gondry’s neat trick of Kato-Vision) with the panache of a legitimate ass-kicker. Paired with Gondry’s liberal uses of slow-motion and image distortion, Chou’s fight choreography gives The Green Hornet its strongest moments.
It doesn’t take long for one to wish that the movie was instead called Kato. Also distracting from the film’s impressive action sequences are Cameron Diaz, in a thankless and underwritten role as a love interest, and Christoph Waltz, who just seems disengaged as the villainous crime lord. But the main problems remains the patchwork script, co-written by Rogen and his Superbad/Pineapple Express writing partner Evan Goldberg. None of the dramatic elements (such as Britt’s father’s death) carry any weight, the interplay between Rogen and Chou rarely amuses, and the stakes never seem all that high.
The Green Hornet sporadically comes to life whenever fists are thrown and shit blows up. Often, Gondry’s eccentric touches—including a make-out session presented in fast-forward a la the sex scene in A Clockwork Orange—operate on a somewhat desperate level, as if the director jammed in as many quirky cues as possible in order to mask the film’s many shortcomings.
But The Green Hornet was made with much loftier ambitions on the parts of Rogen and Goldberg, a known fact that lends an additionally disappointing air to the big ho-hum picture. The plan was to make the anti-superhero superhero movie, one that subverts the genre with tongue-in-cheek humor (Rogen and Goldberg’s end of the bargain) and off-the-wall filmmaking (Gondry’s assignment). While the The Green Hornet’s technical aspects make it worthy of a look, everything else falls flat.
Buy it now: The Green Hornet
Coolest extra: Deleted scenes with introduction by director Ron Howard (DVD); “Tour Chicago” featurette, hosted by Vince Vaughn (Blu-ray)
Complex says: You can’t fault Ron Howard for wanting to lighten up. For the last twelve years, the Academy Award-nominated director’s movies haven’t had a great sense of humor, which makes sense considering that his output includes Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and The Da Vinci Code. We’re guessing that Howard’s intention wasn’t for us to laugh at Tom Hanks’ awkward performance and Nic Cage-like hairdo in Da Vinci.
So when it was announced that the talented Howard was about to direct a buddy comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, optimism swept over us. If handled effectively, The Dilemma could have both recaptured the enjoyment factor of Howard’s last comedy, 1989’s Parenthood, and given Vaughn some of his mojo back, because, let’s face it, the guy hasn’t been funny since Wedding Crashers. And, as made apparent in Howard’s botched The Dilemma, he’s still not funny.
Nor is James, though he and Vaughn try their damndest to center The Dilemma, a schizophrenic mess that can’t decide whether it’s a sophomoric comedy or a heavy-handed drama about morality. The premise is undoubtedly a bromantic nightmare: Vaughn can’t decide whether to snitch or bitch-up after he spots James’ wife (Winona Ryder) hooking up with another man (Channing Tatum).
Howard, who’s more than able to maneuver around drama, seems more comfortable emphasizing the set-up’s psychological impacts and domestic aftereffects. So when the lazy slapstick rears its fugly head (like every time James does one of his fat-guy-falling-down moves), The Dilemma loses whatever minimal force it had to begin with, which isn’t much.
If you’re from Chicago, the Blu-ray is worth a look for everything but the actual movie. The movie’s Windy City setting is honored with a pair of Chi-specific features: “Tour Chicago,” in which Vaughn provides a visual sightseeing trip to the city’s landmarks, and “On Ice,” a chance to watch Howard get a hockey lesson from Chicago Blackhawks’ center Dave Bolland. But we can think of several other ways for Chi-town natives to salute their home turf that don’t involve owning this disappointing flick. Like, watching Derrick Rose drop another double-double, or bumping College Dropout for the umpteenth time.