When you hear that The Green Hornet is coming to the big screen, it’s reasonable to anticipate a typical superhero adventure akin to “Batman,” “The Hulk,” “Superman,” “Fantastic Four,” “X-Men,” “Spider-Man,” “Iron Man “and so many others of classic comic book lore. That is, until you also learn that this picture stars Seth Rogen, the standup-comic-turned-actor best known for cutting-up in irreverent teensploitation flicks such as “Superbad” and “Knocked Up.”
Since his pudgy physique and homely demeanor don’t exactly conjure up visions of a macho, leading man, he undertook the challenge of overhauling the Green Hornet’s persona. With the help of his longtime screenwriting collaborator, Evan Goldberg, Rogen reimagined the title character as the sort of sarcastic, trash-talking slacker he usually plays, as opposed to the selfless, suave protagonist found in the original source material. Otherwise, the storyline remains fairly faithful to the Thirties radio serial and subsequent comic books.
Just past the point of departure, profligate playboy Britt Reid (Rogen) learns that his emotionally-estranged dad (Tom Wilkinson) has died under mysterious circumstances, ostensibly from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. The decadent bachelor fires most of his father’s staff at the mansion, and reluctantly assumes the reins of the media empire, including the local paper, The Los Angeles Sentinel. More importantly, he decides, to pursue his passion afterhours, namely, roaming the streets at night as a crime-fighting vigilante.
To this end, he enlists the assistance of his loyal manservant, Kato (Jay Chou), who not only knows how to brew a mean cup of coffee, but just happens to be a crack inventor, auto mechanic, chauffeur and martial arts expert all rolled into one. Donning masks to morph into their alter egos, the “Green Hornet” and his sidekick proceed to patrol L.A. in the Black Beauty, a bulletproof car outfitted with munitions ranging from machine guns to missiles to shotguns to flamethrowers.
A diabolical archenemy soon emerges in bloodthirsty Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), a Russian mobster who has cornered the drug market with the help of a crooked District Attorney (David Harbour). When not battling bad guys, Britt and Kato find themselves competing for the affections of Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), a secretary at the Sentinel with a degree in criminology.
But don’t let the straightforward-sounding plot fool you, for its execution is decidedly underwhelming. The problems with The “Green Hornet” are plentiful, starting with the fact that Britt Reid is an unlikable lout who can’t fight and you don’t really want to root for. He’s easily eclipsed by Kato who always miraculously surfaces to save the day.
As for the performances, Seth Rogen is upstaged at every turn by his talented co-star, Taiwanese actor/singing sensation Jay Chou, who makes an impressive English-language debut as the acrobatic Kato. Worse, the two never generate any chemistry, a big failing given that this flawed buddy flick frequently feels like a cheap imitation of the Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan trilogy, which so naturally oozed an endearing sense of camaraderie.
The un-Rush Hour!