The Green Hornet (2011) – Directed by Michel Gondry – Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Edwards James Olmos, and James Franco.
Never saw the old TV show, never read the comics, never heard the radio show, so when I tell you that THE GREEN HORNET is garbage, I’m not basing this on anything but the 2-hour movie that just stopped spinning in my DVD player.
There are some films that just never even come close to pulling it together, and THE GREEN HORNET is just such a movie. It is an near-complete and utter disaster, with only Jay Chou’s performance as Kato giving you any reason to keep watching.
The blame for GREEN HORNET has to lie with Seth Rogen; he not only stars in the film, but co-wrote, and co-executive produced the film, so it’s doubtful anyone got him to do things he didn’t want to do. The biggest problem with the film itself is the Britt Reid/Green Hornet character, an oafish, selfish buffoon who spends the bulk of the movie alternately screaming in disbelief and acting like an egotistical dick. The film deserves credit for having Britt eventually see the light, but even then he’s struggling to not be a total dick. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how terrible Rogen is in this movie; never believable, never able to convey any kind of emotional state or acting technique that doesn’t call attention to the fact that he’s treating this all like a big joke, he single-handedly torpedoes a movie that actually does toy with having something to say about how we focus too much on the loudest person in the room – even if that person is a complete moron.
I’m not opposed to the idea of a fun or comedic superhero movie, at all, which is what GREEN HORNET wants to be, but unfortunately it’s neither fun nor funny. It’s a big, loud, stupid movie because Britt Reid is a big, loud, stupid character. The shame of the movie is that Jay Chou’s Kato, Cameron Diaz’s Lenore, Edward James Olmos’ newspaper editor, and even Christoph Waltz’s villain, Chudnofsky, are all quiet, understated characters that, in varying ways, bemoan how big, loud, and stupid their worlds have become.
So what does the film do? It puts the biggest, loudest, dumbest character in the movie at its center, a character so big, so loud, and so dumb that he overwhelms everyone else. Awesome. I’m not a Seth Rogen hater by any stretch, but he’s simply not a good enough actor – or perhaps it’s better to say that he’s not a good enough actor/writer/executive producer – to pull this role off. He acts like a character in a kid’s cartoon, everything’s exaggerated to the point where your brain tells you not to take him seriously.
But then almost every other actor in the film is begging for their character to be taken seriously, so it creates a disconnect between the center and the periphery, and the film never successfully either brings those two halves into alignment, or properly utilizes their disconnect. I hope Rogen the actor learned a lesson from the professionalism of the rest of the cast.
One of the running bits in the film is that Reid never places the blame on himself for anything he does. The movie opens with him being taken to see his dad, a super important newspaper owner/EIC (Tom Wilkinson) whose disgusted with his kid getting in trouble. Little pre-teen Britt sits on the couch with a superhero doll in his hands, trying to tell his dad he just wanted to help a girl from being bullied, but his dad doesn’t want to hear it and pops the head off Britt’s doll and junks it in the trash.
So you’re thinking, “Right. The dad is a dick and the kid is sympathetic,” but then the film cuts to the future and the kid is a rich, partying socialite and the dad is a hard-working newspaperman. Are we supposed to feel bad for him? He’s getting drunk, destroying things, taking home hot party girls …
When his dad dies Britt is conflicted but with Rogen’s limited acting range it just looks like he’s pouty. Or constipated. Whatever sympathy we have for him at his dad’s passing is immediately taken away when we find out that Britt has fired his dad’s entire staff except for one cleaning girl. All Britt cares about is that his morning coffee now tastes like crap, so he rehires the guy who made the coffee, who also happens to be the mechanic.
Britt and Kato bond (which for Britt really means that he finds someone to agree with him), they eventually go out to help people in one of Kato’s custom cars, Britt gets his ass kicked, Kato saves him, and then we’re off. Britt decides they’ll pose the Green Hornet as a bad guy because this will prevent other criminals from using their loved ones against them (because criminals don’t have loved ones, apparently), and he uses his dad’s paper to further this agenda because he sees nothing wrong with totally manipulating the news in order to further his own childish power fantasies.
He hires Lenore as his assistant, but he’s really just interested in sleeping with her. I actually gained a bit of respect for Cameron Diaz here because she shows up in a terrible movie and plays her part as a total professional. It’s cringing to watch Rogen’s character rip Lenore on how old she is because it comes off like a new Hollywood “It” guy ripping a former Hollywood “It” girl. Diaz deserves better than this material.
Of course, the rest of the cast deserves better material. Almost everyone acts with this beaten down resigned look on their faces – remember how Edward James Olmos looked during 90% of Battlestar Galactica? Apply that to most of the cast here. (Well, the rest of the cast minus James Franco, who “acts” his way through his scene like he rolled out of bed still half-stoned, stumbled to the wrong set, was given new material, and then hammed his way through it like he was on SNL and the cue cards were just off-camera.)
I thought Jay Chou really made the most out of the material given to him. The shame is that Kato is really the star of everything he does, but he’s stuck first in a thankless job as the mechanic/coffee boy for the Reids, and then forced to be the Green Hornet’s bodyguard, except everyone calls him the sidekick, instead. I would have had so much more respect for Rogen if he’d made real what his script infers – that Kato should be front and center. If we’d gotten a GREEN HORNET movie where Kato was the star but Britt realized that he had to be the focus of the media attention because it helps their cover even more, we might have had something. Neither Rogen nor the Hornet is good enough at what they do to carry this film, but Jay Chou and Kato are, and if we’d gotten a movie that did more than give lip service to that idea, we might have had something.
Instead, all we’ve got is a big, loud, stupid wet fart of a movie.