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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hollywood Product: The Green Hornet

GENRE: Bromantic superhero comedy

THE PITCH: After his father’s death, newspaper heir/party boy Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) teams with martial artist/mechanic Kato (Chinese superstar Jay Chou) to fight crime as superheroes who masquerade as the criminal Green Hornet and his sidekick/partner in a well-thought-out plan.

MONEY SHOTS: In fast-motion, drunken Britt makes out with a hottie in a succession of sports cars in the family garage. To convey Kato’s ability to perceive time in slow-motion, Kato leaps over a car hood which stretches into multiple cars. The Hornet’s souped-up automobile, The Black Beauty, includes machine guns built into the doors. A falling bulldozer crushes a car. Britt figures out the central conspiracy in a dreamy montage.

: Britt tries to persuade Kato to give up making cars and fixing coffee to fight criminals. “I think Balls-Deep in Shit-Kicking Dudes is a much better title for a book. I would read that book. Actually, I’m not much of a reader, but if it were made into a movie, I would see the shit out of that movie!”

BEST LINE-READING: “We could be heeeee-rooes!” Britt suggests to Kato.

WORST LINE: “I’ve been your father’s trusted colleague for the past 45 years,” Mike Axford (Edward James Olmos) informs Britt with an unnecessary level of exposition.

BEST BAD PUN: Axford: “Let’s not blow this Green Hornet out of proportion.” Britt: “I will blow this guy in any proportion I want.”

BODY COUNT: About nine on camera and many more implicitly off-camera. The film can’t quite make up its mind about whether the hero should kill people: the Hornet’s gas gun immobilizes bad guys for an hour, but at other times, Britt and Kato seem to relish taking the lives of crooks.

FASHION STATEMENTS: Britt wears a white suit and black-and-white check shirt during some early debauchery. Britt wears silk pajamas repeatedly during the movie. For fighting crime, Britt and Kato don green and black masks, respectively, while Kato wears a dapper chauffeur’s uniform. A mishap with the gas gun leads to a scene with Britt in a diaper.
Crimelord Benjamin Chudnofsky (Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz) tries to become more memorably scary by wearing a blood-colored outfit.

: Playful, post-modernist director Michel Gondry takes a eclectic approach to the music, from Britt rolling to “The Humpty Dance” in a black stretch SUV to Britt and Kato singing a duet to “Gangsta’s Paradise” to the classical music Kato likes.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT: The Green Hornet’s Black Beauty serves as a retro recommendation for the 1966 Chrysler Imperial.

NOTABLE CAMEOS: Rogen’s Pineapple Express co-star has an amusing walk-on as a gangster who gets on Chudnofsky’s bad side. Kato’s sketchbook includes drawings of Bruce Lee, the original Kato on the 1960s “Green Hornet” TV show.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Hong Kong’s Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) was originally cast as Kato but parted over “creative differences.” Nicolas Cage similarly lost interest in playing Chudnofsky, which seems a shame, because his hammy instincts may have paid off better than Christoph Waltz’s understated performance.

THE BOTTOM LINE: It’s best to think of The Green Hornet as a Seth Rogen vehicle, as the schlubby wisecracker scripted the film with Evan Goldberg (with whom he wrote Superbad). Rogen’s raunchy one-liners and boys-with-toys enthusiasm drives the film for nearly an hour and gives The Green Hornet more joy than, say, Kick-Ass. Chou’s struggles with English hamper the bromance side of the story and the noisy car chases of the last act seem to go on forever, like one of Hal Needham’s Burt Reynolds flicks of the 1970s, blunting this Hornet’s sting.

The Green Hornet. 3 stars. Directed by Michel Gondry. Stars Seth Rogen, Jay Chou. Rated PG-13. Now playing in area theaters.

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