The Way of the Word

11. January 2011

Review: The Green Hornet

USA 2011. Directed by Michel Gondry. Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz. Runtime: 110 minutes

When Britt Reid’s (Seth Rogen) father, newspaper mogul James Reid, dies from an allergic reaction to a bee sting, playboy and no-goodnick Britt has to take over. Britt befriends his father’s erstwhile mechanic Kato (Jay Chou), and talks him into joining him in becoming superheroes. Together (well, mostly Kato, with Britt in his new identity as Green Hornet taking credit) they mix up LA’s underworld.  Since they pretend to be criminals, that doesn’t sit well with the city’ actual crime-lord-in-charge, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). The situation escalates into what looks, to outsiders, like a major gang war for the control of Los Angeles’s criminal underworld.

I admit that I went into this movie expecting to totally and completely loathe it. To my surprise, it was better than I had expected. Granted, that’s easy, considering just how bad I had expected it to be. But even by that standard.

That said, I still didn’t like it all that much. Shall we begin the diagnosis?

The good:

Green Hornet is esthetically interesting. Gondry has a distinctive visual style, and his almost-surrealism makes this movie interesting to look at.

The action sequences, mostly car chases and martial arts stuff, are energetic and engaging and work very very well.

Christoph Waltz is not memorable as the bland, boring and not at all scary villain Chudnofsky. Why is that a good thing? Because it’s intentional. It’s what makes the character unique. He’s a crime lord who does not seem scary at all, but he desperately wants to be scary. Chudnofsky is easily the best character in this movie.

And at the end of the film, I realized that the heroes resolved a major dilemma in a way that a hero who has to be heroic never could. I don’t know if Rogen actually thought that through (judging by the rest of the film, I don’t think so), but it’s a chilling reminder of why being disguised as a villain can be effective.

The bad:

Green Hornet would have been a terrific movie if they had played it straight. Unfortunately, they decided to make a comedy, and the jokes mostly don’t work.

At least not for me. Seth Rogen’s stlye of asshole-slacker-humor simply isn’t what I find funny, so most of the supposed jokes were facepalm-stuff for me. I mean, I don’t mind gay jokes and blonde jokes if they’re actually funny, but in this movie neither the gay jokes nor Cameron Diaz were.

Seth Rogen as the writer and the actor playing the role is also to blame for another reason why this movie didn’t work for me: his Britt Reid is an unlikable jerk and bully. His motivation for becoming a superhero? He is bored, and thanks to Kato he can feel like a hero without actually taking much risk. You could call Britt Reid “What if Kick-Ass were Batman?” This Britt Reid is irresponsible, stupid (yes, as in: not particularly intelligent), arrogant, offensive and generally juvenile. I couldn’t see a single redeeming quality in the character. Even at the movie’s end, he hasn’t learned anything from his adventure.

Kato’s motivation for joining Britt “in this adventure” is even more obscure. He’s an engineering savant (yes, I know what the word means, that’s why I use it) who doesn’t even like Britt. So why would he join him?

Regarding Jay Chou, I hope he uses the money he made for this movie to buy a second facial expression.

The ugly:

If you get to choose, see the movie in 3D. It’s a post-converted movie. If that doesn’t say it all already, let me explain some of the problems that this movie has with 3D.

Gondry uses quick music-video-style cuts. When you do that in 3D, the 3D can’t keep up. The eye can’t process the quick changes. I wasn’t affected, fortunately, but I heard several people complain of nausea and headaches after the movie. In addition to the physical problems, the visuals are frequently blurry and out of focus, which (I’m told) is also a problem of the post-conversion process. So if you want to see the movie with a sharp and in-focus picture, without headaches and the risk of spewing your popcorn on the guy in the seat before you (or being spewed on by the guy behind you), choose the 2D version. Luckily, 3D doesn’t really add anything to this movie, so you wouldn’t miss out.

Plus, the 3D glasses get in the way of the facepalm.

In general, what’s the verdict? Frankly, I’m not sure. As I said, the action scenes work, but as a comedy it fails. I suppose that if you like Seth Rogen’s style of comedy, the comedy will work for you, so you will probably enjoy it. Since I don’t like that type of humor, I didn’t. Therefore, since it was a comedy that I didn’t find funny, and since I found the main character irredeemably unlikable, I render the following

Verdict: mildly not recommended



  1. That said…

    The above is me putting on my reviewer’s hat. When I do that, it’s not so much whether or not I liked the movie, but whether or not someone else would.

    In this case, though, allow me to opinionate on The Green Rogen a bit now.

    While I admit that the film has entertainment value, I very much want it to fail. I want it to fail so hard that nobody who is involved in the making of it will ever work in this proverbial town again.


    Because they don’t get it.

    It’s one thing to intelligently spoof a superhero. It’s another thing to make a movie that completely proves that you have no idea what you’re doing.

    The movie’s title is “Green Hornet.” That tells you what? Right: the hero is the guy called Green Hornet. The title is not “idiot wannabe superhero who is so dumb that he makes Sarah Palin appear intelligent and is constantly upstaged by his much cooler sidekick.” If you want to make that movie, call it “Kato.” When you call the movie “Green Hornet,” then Green Hornet has to be the one who defeats the bad guys. Instead of strutting and letting the sidekick do all the work and then just taking the credit.

    The people who made this movie didn’t understand that. And director Michel Gondry calls people who have a problem with this lack of understanding on his part “fascists.”

    So, yes, I want this movie to fail “Batman & Robin”-level hard. So that the next time someone makes a movie about an established character, they at least look at the title to remind themselves, “That’s who the movie is about.”

    Comment by jensaltmann — 11. January 2011 @ 16:18

  2. I was actually thinking about seeing this, but reading your review makes me not want to waste my time on it. I’m marginal on superhero movies at best. The trailers made this look like it wouldn’t be too bad…but I wanted to see Kato more than the Green Hornet. He looked cool.

    Comment by Lisa Morgan — 11. January 2011 @ 18:23

  3. This movie should really be titled “Kato,” because the movie likes Kato better than the Hornet. Basically, if you like the trailers, then odds are you’ll like the movie. I didn’t like the trailers, and I was surprised I didn’t completely loathe the movie. I only loathed it 75% or so… 🙂

    Comment by jensaltmann — 11. January 2011 @ 19:11

  4. Heard the movie was pretty bad and miscast. Let’s face it, Seth Rogen does not have the good looks of Van Williams. He looks more like a goofy sidekick. Might give it a look when it comes on tv.

    Comment by C Nelson — 12. January 2011 @ 03:38

  5. Rogen doesn’t have any of the qualities that any kind of hero requires. The problems start with (but aren’t limited to) Rogen co-writing the script for himself after putting on his producer hat to cast himself in the lead. Those were the first of a series of bad decisions regarding this movie.

    About the goofy sidekick thing, that’s pretty much how they play it. Rogen is the goofy sidekick who thinks he’s really the hero.

    Comment by jensaltmann — 12. January 2011 @ 10:10

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