THE GREEN HORNET marks the beginning of what promises to be a very busy 2011 for superhero movies (the others being THE GREEN LANTERN, THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and X-MEN: FIRST CLASS). Few people, including hard core comic book geeks, know who the fuck The Green Hornet is or much less care what this character is about. In that regard, the hero reminds me of Dick Tracy, who was also adapted into a film (an excellent film I might add) in 1990 by Warren Beatty. However, if you do end up seeing THE GREEN HORNET (and I recommend you do), you will quickly realize that it doesn’t matter whether or not you know anything about this character. In fact, Seth Rogen, the star of the film, and Michel Gondry, the director of the film, seem to merely use the character to provide a loose background for what amounts to be more of a comedy showcase for Rogen’s talents than an action superhero movie. And you know what? I’m totally cool with that because I happen to find Seth Rogen’s shit funny as all hell (for evidence, see OBSERVE & REPORT). THE GREEN HORNET was shit on by the online movie mavens and film gossip reporters long before the movie came out. When its release date was pushed back, the negative buzz increased in intensity and everyone seemed to be expecting a giant turkey. One source of criticism was the trailer, which apparently wasn’t funny to most. I, on the other hand, thought it made the film look like a great, entertaining, and humorous ride. After seeing it last week, I am happy to say that the film proves all the naysayers wrong and validates all of my positive expectations of the film.

THE GREEN HORNET is sort of like Batman in that our hero, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), is the heir to a vast fortune that is seemingly comprised of an unlimited amount of wealth. Like Bruce Wayne, Reid also has a butler, Kato (Jay Chou), who can make a cup of espresso like nobody’s business. Also like Batman, The Green Hornet has no powers and he relies on his athletic abilities, fighting skills, plethora of gadgets, and a killer car that’s outfitted with all sorts of crazy shit. Although there are many similarities between the two heroes, the similarities end there and in many other respects, The Green Hornet is a different, much more irreverent character than Batman. Britt Reid is a spoiled asshole who takes no interest in what his father (Tom Wilkinson) does for a living, which is be a newspaper mogul. All he concerns himself with is having a good time and getting crazy ass drunk every night. When his father suddenly dies, Reid is placed in the sudden and unexpected position of taking ownership of the family fortune and running his father’s newspaper, which he has no clue how to do. However, Reid soon meets his father’s butler, Kato. In addition to making great espresso, Reid discovers that Kato also knows how to build cool shit and he knows martial arts. After a night of kicking the ass of some hoodlums, Reid and Kato decide to become a sort of crime-fighting team. I say “sort of” because Reid’s grand plan is to make the city think he’s actually a villain, not a hero, so that his newspaper can increase in readership. With the help of his new, hot secretary (Cameron Diaz), the two heroes seek out crime wherever it may be and reverse their newspaper’s declining readership. Unfortunately, the plan sort of backfires when their escapades attract the attention of L.A.’s head crime boss, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), who targets the Green Hornet and Kato.

In the last couple of years, studios have mercifully decided to veer away from presenting their audiences with only serious, action comic book adaptations and try their hand at experimenting with the genre. Last year, we got the excellent KICK-ASS and SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD. Both films offered new and interesting takes on the conventional comic book genre. KICK-ASS posed the question of what it would be like if superheroes existed in the real world. What we were treated to was one of the best and most violent superhero films to ever come out. With SCOTT PILGRIM, the superhero genre was mixed with a humorous blend of 80s and 90s video game/music pop culture and the result was something entirely unique and hilarious. THE GREEN HORNET similarly experiments with the genre and it borrows some of the same elements from KICK-ASS and SCOTT PILGRIM. Like KICK-ASS, this film also tries to play with the notion of superheroes operating in the real world, albeit THE GREEN HORNET defies reality to a MUCH greater degree than KICK-ASS does and with a hell of a lot less violence. Like SCOTT PILGRIM, this movie also barrages the audience with pop culture references, but not in a manner that is done for its own sake, but rather in a way to connect with the audience and provide humor.

I’ve probably said this in previous reviews, but I believe Seth Rogen to be one of the funniest actors working today. 2009’s OBSERVE AND REPORT was not loved by everyone, but I considered it to be one of the best films to come out that year. Rogen is blessed with an impeccable sense of comic timing and one of the sharpest wits I have seen in many years. What’s more, Rogen isn’t afraid to tackle taboo subjects in his movies. His humor knows no bounds and its what makes me enjoy his comedy so much. I was afraid Rogen would tone down his R-rated comedy for the more teen-friendly GREEN HORNET, but thankfully he doesn’t pull an Eddie Murphy here and water it down to clichéd, lame jokes. I actually wish Rogen maintained the same edgy humor for the film, but I completely understand why he would make it a little more teen friendly for a film like this. All in all, Rogen is his usual hilarious self and makes the film worth watching for just him alone (NOTE: There is a great little scene where Rogen blasts “Gangsta’s Paradise” on his car stereo that had the audience rolling).

I didn’t know who the fuck Jay Chou was before I saw him as Kato in this movie. I figured he was probably some famous actor in Hong Kong because why else would he have been cast in THE GREEN HORNET. What I didn’t know was that he’s in fact a HUGE pop star in Taiwan and he does a little acting on the side as well. Of course, I wish the original choice to play Kato, Stephen Chow (KUNG FU HUSTLE and SHAOLIN SOCCER), had come through instead because there is absolutely no one better for a film like this that mixes action and humor. Unfortunately, Chow dropped out of the project and we ended up with Jay Chou instead. I don’t mean to bag on Chou because he does a fantastic job as Kato. His poor English skills provide for a lot of hilarious moments between he and Rogen and I’m glad that Rogen took advantage of that. Now I’m not sure whether Chou really knows martial arts, but regardless of whether he does or not, the action scenes with him are exciting to watch.

As much as I looked forward to seeing Seth Rogen and Jay Chou in THE GREEN HORNET, I was most eagerly anticipating the return of Christoph Waltz, who was last seen in the Quentin Tarantino mindfuck of a classic, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. Waltz does not disappoint in his opening appearance where he confronts James Franco (in a small, uncredited cameo) in a nightclub. Waltz brings in the same intense, scary, and funny persona that he treated us with in BASTERDS. Sadly, Rogen and Gondry were apparently unable to utilize Waltz to his fullest potential because not only do we not get enough of the character, but every time we do see him in the movie, he sort of repeats the same thing he does in the beginning of the film. His character is poorly developed and its certainly unfitting of Mr. Waltz’s talents.

Speaking of poor character development, Cameron Diaz should be ashamed for taking a role like this. Considering that she’s been working in the industry since around 1994 when she first hit it big in THE MASK, its pretty sad that now in 2011, she’s essentially playing the same type of cardboard, two-dimensional character that she did in THE MASK. Its obvious Diaz was cast just for her good looks and nothing else and I guess she doesn’t really mind that considering she got a nice, fat paycheck out of it.

I ended up enjoying THE GREEN HORNET and I make no apologies for it. However, that’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its flaws. Now I understand that THE GREEN HORNET isn’t aiming for the same degree of ‘what if superheroes existed in the real world’ formula that KICK-ASS tried to do. This film is much more stylized and over the top and that’s perfectly fine because that shit can work just as well and it has. However, the climactic battle at the end of the film is a little too much for anyone to digest. I liked how the final action sequence is set inside the newspaper building amidst giant rolls of newspaper sheets and conveyer belts. All of that is cool and its something we haven’t seen before in a movie. However, do we really need to see a car cut in half that continues to drive around? Are we really expected to suspend our disbelief at LITERALLY anything? Given the creativity exhibited by Gondry and Rogen throughout the film, I was disappointed that they had to resort to such lazy storytelling. I had similar issues with the seemingly random scene that takes place at a construction site where the two heroes escape from being buried. The choice of location alone felt uninspired and definitely lacking visual attraction. Worse, Rogen and Gondry were totally unable to utilize the landscape to craft something exciting.

Despite the flaws of the movie, THE GREEN HORNET remains a very entertaining film that, at the very least, not disappoint comic book geeks. Its genuinely hilarious and it contains decent action for those wanting to see shit blow up and people getting hurt. The critics were simply wrong about this film and its nowhere near the disaster that everyone predicted it would be. Could it have been better? Absolutely, especially given the promising collaboration between Seth Rogen and Michel Gondry. I think for those of you who are Gondry fans, you will be disappointed because the film mostly lacks the director’s trademark style (NOTE: Gondry came aboard this project late). This film clearly has Rogen’s fingerprints all over it with a sprinkling of Gondry’s style here and there.

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