Special to The Dagger
Of all the words to describe Seth Rogen, action hero is probably not at the top of the list. But in “The Green Hornet,” he manages to pull off a high-octane action role with a bumbling ease that plays out like “Pineapple Express” light.
The Green Hornet story, existing in various forms of media since the 1930’s, is given a comedic re-boot with Rogen playing the lead. Following the death of his father, Britt Reid (Rogen) inherits his father’s media empire. Realizing that he is surrounded by crime, Reid enlists his father’s former manservant Kato (Jay Chou) to create a heroic duo.
Both Rogen and Chou perform admirably in their roles while bringing a slapstick comedy that defines the film. They work well together on-screen, but Rogen loses an edge when acting separately. Chou is certainly the star, despite not being the title character. His action scenes are fast-paced and exciting, but he possesses the serious acting chops to pull off the more dramatic dialogs with ease.
However, the storyline would have worked as a much grittier drama, a la “Sin City.” Rogan, to his benefit, stays in familiar territory. At some point he is going to have to branch out from this form of comedy, or risk losing his audience to familiarity.
The greatest disappointment came not from Rogen’s acting, but from the lack of surreal imagination for which director Michel Gondry is known. There are glimpses of his groundbreaking style in the fight scenes, but overall his talent seems wasted. Cameron Diaz as Lenore Case, Britt’s secretary, seems little more than an after thought to the script. Supposedly providing the inept duo with ideas on how to be criminals, she generalizes while supposedly masterminding. She works with the material she’s got, but there isn’t much there.
The lack of depth in the writing is really what drags the movie down. While it is fun to watch, the plot ultimately doesn’t make sense. The climax that will bring down the criminal underworld hinges on Reid revealing that there is a criminal underworld. Problem: everyone already knows this. At no point does the script even pretend that this would be enough of a shock to galvanize the people to action. Details are the death of this movie. The script treads a thin line of pulling in elements of the classic story (Reid owns a newspaper empire) while trying to make it modern (alluding to the newspaper industry failing). The story points never quite hold up under close examination and ultimately prevent “The Green Hornet” from being a great movie.
But it is a fun movie, if you go in not expecting too much and not over-examining the script. My only other warning would be to parents: there is a lot of cursing for a movie that is certainly going to appeal to a younger demographic. Rogen writes for an older age bracket and misses the target audience by a mile.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: Rent it. There is nothing that new in Rogen’s work or amazing in Gondry’s directing that makes this a worth the theater’s experience.
TWO STARS out of four.
Directed by Michel Gondry. Written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and George W. Trendle.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content.
Runtime: 1 hour, 59 min