“Green Hornet” fun but uneven dramedyWritten by Jim Beard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For those among us who hold up the 1966 “Batman” TV series as a valid interpretation of the character, “The Green Hornet,” which opens Friday, January 14, may us in an awkward position. It would be impossible to address the new film, like the famous 60s television series, without addressing the 800lb green gorilla in the room: humor. If one can accept the Batusi and Aunt Harriet with a straight face, how then must one deal with Seth Rogen as a modern take on the classic pulp/radio hero?
Though not an outright comedy, “The Green Hornet” is striated with humor. Fortunately, it does not need that humor to exist; it’s a fairly likable action film without it, but it does rely heavily on it at times and to the point of distraction. Sure, the movie offers the surreal proposition of a party-boy slacker newspaper heir getting his act together enough to become a superhero, but it often crosses the line of disbelief and weaves drunkenly into slapstick. Even in a comedy, certain parameters must be set so as to keep the humor grounded –- unless true farce is called for. “The Green Hornet” isn’t quite sure what it wants to be; is it a parody of the character? A bold, modern interpretation? Or is it just a hip-hop satire? So many explosions and one-liners are thrown at you that it seems as if the producers hope you won’t make up your mind.
Seth Rogen is good in the film, but he’s the chief line-crosser. The unkempt and somewhat flabby star never quite shuts up throughout the film and at times pushes the humor to its breaking point. You want to yell at the screen and tell him to just settle down for a minute. The true beauty of the project, other than the “Black Beauty” car, is, surprisingly, the relationship between the Hornet and his partner Kato, played wonderfully by Jay Chou. This is where the film excels and where its true heart may be found. It’s a story of brothers who find each other, try to work together and ultimately come to blows; that’s the point where you’ll discover your true feelings for the film.
Also excellent is Christoph Waltz as the villain with a nearly-unpronounceable Russian name. This is a guy who knows exactly how to maintain the balance between humor and seriousness, a quality that the star of the piece would be wise to emulate. Cameron Diaz is superfluous here and sadly looking quite old; the apparent difference in age between her and the two heroes makes for an awkward “love triangle.”
So, maybe the Green Hornet isn’t as well-known and popular as Batman and therefore liberties can be taken with him. There is enough homage to the character’s past in the film that may lead one to believe that someone on staff cared about such things – but the key is whether or not the audience will. For the young, “The Green Hornet” may be a pleasant few hours’ ramble; for the rest of us, it may be a bit too much of a lark.