The Green Hornet is more entertaining when he isn’t The Green Hornet

By Wesley Emblidge

Sometimes when you see a movie trailer, you think “Oh, that looks awesome!” but oftentimes, the film fails to live up to your high expectations. “The Green Hornet,” the new superhero action-comedy starring and written by Seth Rogen and directed by Michel Gondry, is one of those films. The elements that should be really strong, such as Rogen’s script, ends up being what slowly kills the film as it drags on for much longer than needed.

The film follows Britt Reid (Rogen), the son of media mogul James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). Rogen leads a life of parties and one night stands, a great disappointment for his father, who feels since he spent his life building a successful media empire, Rogen should be doing more than tossing mini fridges out of hotel windows. It’s the whole classic kid-with-a-rich-father-who-disapproves-of-him thing. But then, Wilkinson dies, and now Rogen inherits the entirety of his fathers empire including his mechanic/barista Kato. And Kato is basically, in simplest terms: awesome. As in, he can build huge superhero cars with machine guns and record players, speaks very limited english, and can open beer bottles with his bare hands. Anyway, long story short, the two team up, because Rogen now feels like actually doing something in life, and they decide to fight crime. They start out on this brilliant plan that they make Cameron Diaz come up with, where they take down the little drug dealers, then move up the chain until they reach the leaders of the city crime. A really simple plot, but hey, maybe that’s more on the original show than it is on Rogen’s writing. The movie is good enough for the first hour or so, but that’s before Rogen becomes a hero. The most entertaining parts are when Rogen is partying, or when he and Kato are just kind of goofing off, no real purpose, just playing with weapons and such. But then they start to actually fight crime, and then it starts to get a bit boring.

Now, in that kind of story, what’s missing? That’s right, a big awesome crime boss. Enter “Chudnofsky” (Christoph Waltz, from Inglorious Bastards). Now, here’s the problem with this guy: Rogen didn’t really know how to write him. I suppose he wanted him to be menacing, as he’s the villain for the film, although he doesn’t feel it, because Rogen also tried to write him as funny. And Waltz is not a funny actor. He’s a dramatic actor. Maybe this is him trying to get more mainstream. For the entire film, characters keep telling Waltz that he isn’t scary, that he’s old and weird. So much of the movie, Waltz is trying to come up with ways to be scary. And that was apparently supposed to be funny. And trying to be scary and funny at the same time, and failing at both, resulting in a bad character. He would have been a completely boring minor character, let alone a big villain with a lot of screen time. The sad thing is is that he’s actually a great actor, he won an oscar last year, but the material didn’t suit him at all. And because of all the time he took up, he ended up being even more annoying than Cameron Diaz, as that secretary everyone sexually harasses.

I suppose in the plot she was the most useless character, but she actually had a specific personality at times. She supposedly knew about journalism and stuff like that (although her dialogue and acting weren’t the least bit convincing), so Rogen hired her to hopefully sleep with her, and to get her to do some useless stuff that he and Kato could have done just as easily, without wasting screen time on her. Her other purpose was to cause problems that can take up screen time. When she first appears in the movie, both Rogen and Kato are instantly in love with her, and it leads to them fighting over her, then breaking up over her, but then of course they team back up with each other and then her. More screen time wasted by Diaz, without her even being there. So there, two really bad characters that take up a lot of time.
The movie has it’s highlights as well, mainly the action in this film, which is kinda crazy stuff. You have Kato fighting people in high speed, while everyone else is in slow motion. You have their insane car, with things like missiles and machine guns popping out all over. But then you get to simple things, which could have been fine, like Jay Chou as Kato: terrible English. It took a while to figure out what it was he said a few minutes ago. Sure, he pulleds off the action well, but he’s really hard to understand. It’s not that Chou is a bad actor necessarily, it’s that he can’t speak English. And for a movie made in the US for the US….that’s a bad thing.

Along the line, you get some ridiculous things, like Rogen abusing his fathers newspaper. He essentially turns the paper into a way to advertise the green hornet, there’s an entire scene where he gets the papers staff to come up with a name for this “masked man.” And most of the staff just goes along with it, not really caring that the paper they’ve worked on for years is being turned into a big Green Hornet fan site. They give him front page coverage when he simply takes the head off a statue. If I had a subscription, I’d cancel it. I really wonder how Rogen’s writing was so poor on this, it feels like he didn’t really write it, usually his script are more thought out and structured than this, this feels like a first draft written by the guys who made “Vampires Suck.”

After all those criticisms, I do have to say; this was still a fun movie. At least the first hour is, the time is spent watching these two guys partying and beating up drug dealers and testing out weapons, and it’s fun. You can enjoy it. However then, they start fighting over nothing, and it just gets boring, you just wait for the action scenes, which thankfully, happen a lot. The movie was honestly more fun before they really became heroes and the plot started moving forward. And in a film where that’s the bulk of the movie, that’s a bad sign.
In the end, what saves this film is Michel Gondry’s direction. He’s the one guy who really did well on the film, performances everywhere are lacking (whose haven’t I criticized yet?), Rogen’s writing seems lazy, but Gondry takes that script and those actors, and makes something workable out of it. But even he is lacking, because a Michel Godry film always has something crazy going on, from apes turning into humans, to people running around in their brains their memories get erased. The only sign of his work are a few cool transitions, the rest of the time, it feel like Rogen himself could have directed it (And for all we know, he did. Star power).
No, this isn’t a good film. I don’t know if it’s a bad film either, it’s just very mediocre. I can understand people who hate it, and those who really enjoy it. However if you can get past what has been mentioned so far, then you’ll probably be able to watch it as a popcorn flick, something forgettable. Nothing more.

Written by Wesley Emblidge. This article is an online exclusive.