It’s refreshing to see actors take roles outside their comfort zone. But a slimmed-down Seth Rogen going from the fat funnyman to vigilante crime fighter in “The Green Hornet” is a risk without reward. He’s as out of place as director Michel Gondry, who is better groomed for taking a surreal trip through Jim Carrey’s head (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) than positioning Rogen as a masked avenger. This never feels like Gondy’s film anyway. It’s got Rogen’s stamp all over it.
It’s refreshing to see actors take roles outside their comfort zone. But a slimmed-down Seth Rogen going from the fat funnyman to vigilante crime fighter in “The Green Hornet” is a risk without reward.
He’s as out of place as director Michel Gondry, who is better groomed for taking a surreal trip through Jim Carrey’s head (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) than positioning Rogen as a masked avenger. This never feels like Gondy’s film anyway. It’s got Rogen’s stamp all over it.
Rogen penned the screenplay with writing partner Evan Goldberg (“Superbad,” “Pineapple Express”). And in Britt Reid, aka the Green Hornet, they’ve created a composite of Rogen’s onscreen personas: the good-hearted shlub, who at some point must man-up.
Unfortunately, the shtick doesn’t work as well this time. Billed as an action-comedy, the film is just plain boring. The 3-D effects are lame and the performances all lack spark, as does the bromance between Rogen and his sidekick, Kato (Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou).
If you’re not going to get acting, writing or special effects, you should at least expect a film based on a vigilante comic book hero to produce a few killer fight scenes – especially if it’s in 3-D.
All “The Green Hornet” delivers is yawns. Forget about any butt-kicking action, edge-of-your-seat excitement, innovative martial arts or death-defying stunts. Most of the fight sequences rely on the same slow-mo camera work that was fresh in “The Matrix,” but now looks hopelessly dated.
There’s a weird change of speed during the fights that slows for the anticipation and picks up as the fighter, usually Kato, calculates the best trajectory to clobber the opponent.
One particularly weak action sequence involves nothing more than smashing lamps, chairs and TVs over an opponent’s head. Other bits rip off Jason Bourne, even “Kill Bill.” But the climactic showdown looks pretty sharp in 3-D, with glass shards flying in all directions.
What doesn’t fly is the story, which finds Britt Reid (aka the Green Hornet) and Kato upsetting the criminal balance in Los Angeles. No thug is safe as the duo vanquishes muggers, pushers and thieves, leading the city’s criminal kingpin, Chudnofsky (Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz), to put a bounty on their heads.
Meanwhile, having just inherited his father’s (Tom Wilkinson) media empire after dad died (or was he killed?), Britt uses the front page of the Daily Sentinel to perpetuate the story of the Green Hornet. Eventually it takes on a life of its own.
Adding to the conflict is the rift that develops between Britt and Kato, as they both chase after the woman of their dreams. That would be Cameron Diaz, Britt’s leggy assistant, who can always be counted upon to spout journalistic platitudes.
Again, not very interesting, but it easily could have been a lot worse if not for Waltz, last year’s best-supporting actor for his memorable turn in “Inglorious Basterds.” He flat blows everyone else away – literally and figuratively – even when he’s basically phoning it in from behind an accent that seems to change as often as the weather.
The only thing better is a great cameo by the ubiquitous James Franco, who like Waltz, isn’t afraid to think outside the nest.
Everyone else is simply going through the motions in service of a “Hornet” that’s a real buzz kill.
Dana Barbuto is at email@example.com.
THE GREEN HORNET (PG-13 for for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content.) Cast includes Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz. 1.5 stars out of 4.