Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Green Hornet (2011)

Seth Rogen is not a leading man, and he is certainly not a superhero. For the most part his film, The Green Hornet, understands this, and occasionally it thrives upon that understanding. The idea of Rogen as a dashing playboy who one day decides to use his wealth and power to fight crime is ludicrous. So instead we get a slim but still oafish party animal who one day decides to use his wealth and power to do some crazy hero type shit with his cool new toy, Kato. It’s a take that’s so obviously handicapped it’s almost brilliant. Unfortunately, The Green Hornet is “almost” a lot of things.

Based on a television program that was based on film serials that were based on comic books that were based on a 1930s pulp radio show, Hornet’s been buzzing through the Hollywood hills for a very long time. But for the past couple decades, it’s been idling in development hell. Names like George Clooney, Jet Li, Kevin Smith and Stephen Chow have all been attached in some way or another. And in some way or another, the concept failed.

On the heals of their success with Superbad (2007) and Pineapple Express (2008), Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg were brought in, and the film finally got off the ground, not as a traditional hero flick, but as a buddy comedy action caper.

The resulting movie is pretty much exactly what you’d think Rogen and his goofy buddies would create after a little too much pineapple – an uneven, undeveloped super-party that’s half sketch comedy, half neato action. Director Michel Gondry (who was originally attached to the project back in the mid-90s) is brought in to help with the neato, and he sporadically contributes on design and FX levels. Inglorious basterd Christoph Walz steps in to play the villain as a zaney self-conscious crime kingpin killing his way through a midlife crisis. And Cameron Diaz is here to play the hot secretary, because almost 20 years after The Mask (1994), she’s still a dame looking to dance with half-heroic green dudes.

The problem isn’t any of these people, or Taiwanese singer/actor Jay Chau, who brings a charismatic honesty to his role as Kato. The problem isn’t even Rogen the actor, regardless of what you may think of his limited range or particular shtick (I tend to enjoy him). The problem is Rogen the writer, who takes a character that could easily have been a loveable but earnest loser, and turns him into a moronic, incapable, unlikeable asshole. You can make your hero selfish (Peter Vankman). You can make him an idiot (Ace Ventura). But you can’t make him utterly useless and unlikeable and still expect us to root for him.

Or if you can, they didn’t here. I spent most of my time feeling sorry for poor Kato for having to put up with this guy, and the rest of my time trying to figure out why he did. I never found that answer. And it could have been a simple one.

Ultimately there are a lot of similar issues in Hornet, a trend-bucking hero flick that only ends up proving the value of the trend. There’s fun to be had here, and adventure to be enjoyed. But never enough to compensate for the lack of audience investment. Rogen and co. undervalue the drama and overvalue the comedy. But the comedy isn’t funny enough, and what little drama they offer is tediously conceived.

They wanted to accentuate the ridiculousness of their concept, but took little time to value it, to find the worthwhile quality within these gallant tales. In The Green Hornet they’ve created something occasionally agreeable, but decidedly un-heroic.

Oh, and the 3D is, of course, useless.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails