(No longer in theaters)
Neal H. Moritz
Jan 14, 2011
Dame Helen Mirren recently lamented a film industry that “continues to worship at the altar of the 18-to-25-year-old male and his penis.” The altar is wider than that, though: There’s plenty of room for the older man who wants to pretend he’s an 18-to-25-year-old male and wields his penis of yore. Those kinds of men-children are the heroes of Seth Rogen’s The Green Hornet update and the clubfooted comedy The Dilemma, which stars Vince Vaughn as a guy who discovers a secret about the wife of his best friend (Kevin James). And on the evidence, the genre in which grown-up buddies wrestle with their masculinity while acting like juveniles is looking mighty limp.
At least The Green Hornet is likable, and a refreshing change from the heavy, angst-ridden superhero pictures so beloved by obnoxious fanboys. The director is Michel Gondry, who proved, in The Science of Sleep, to be a virtuoso at making childish fantasies take wing. And I’m not the first to notice a Bob Hope–Bing Crosby road-movie vibe between the two stars, Rogen as Britt Reid (a.k.a. the Green Hornet) and Jay Chou as the kung fu master Kato — both smitten with Cameron Diaz in the Dorothy Lamour role.
The thrust is Oedipal. Rogen’s Britt is a ne’er-do-well rich kid, son of a disapproving media mogul (Tom Wilkinson) who, in a prologue, suddenly tears the head off his little son’s superhero doll. Later, when the dad drops dead from a bee sting, Britt and Kato (who was his father’s assistant) knock the head off the old man’s graveside statue. That marks the birth of the Green Hornet — the self-styled criminal who fights criminals. Both for P.C. reasons and because Chou is a big star in the all-important Asian market, Kato refuses to be Britt’s sidekick. So he and Rogen trade lame insults while fighting off bad guys, chief among them Christoph Waltz as a Russian mobster. What a difference it makes when Quentin Tarantino isn’t writing your lines.
The Hope-Crosby thing might work better if the quips were fresh and Chou was comfortable with English. He speaks as if he learned it phonetically, and unlike Bruce Lee’s Kato in the old TV show, he talks a lot. His fighting — heavily edited — isn’t especially enlivening, either. Gondry, who often uses sophisticated CGI to create a rough-hewn, handmade look, doesn’t have a way with smash-and-bash car chases. There are a few neat trick shots in which Chou moves at a different speed than his slo-mo adversaries, and a couple of good 3-D effects, like the split screens in which each frame is at a different spatial level. But The Green Hornet doesn’t seem worth the outrageous 3-D-glasses surcharge. In all senses, there’s little that jumps out at you.