Reeling It In: 'The Green Hornet' is a blast

Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011

"The Green Hornet"

Ap Photo/Columbia Pictures-Sony, Jaimie Trueblood
Ap Photo/Columbia Pictures-Sony, Jaimie Trueblood
In this film publicity image released by Columbia Pictures, Seth Rogen, left, and Jay Chou are shown in a scene from "The Green Hornet."

Columbia Pictures

1 hour, 59 minutes

I have to say, though I lauded our local theater for investing in the equipment to be able to show 3D movies, after my experience with "Gulliver's Travels," I was not all that jazzed about the resurgence of this gimmicky yet popular format. I just kept thinking, "So now I get to pay $3 more per movie for this?" And it's not like there's an option. With only two screens, it's not like they're going to have a 2D option for those who don't want to waste their time and money on the 3D.

OK, that was after "Gulliver." After seeing "The Green Hornet" this weekend, my reaction was more along the lines of "Oh.... I get it."

Though not a great film, in the parlance of this awards season hoopla, "The Green Hornet" is a blast, and very, very funny. I had fairly low expectations, I have to admit. One, I was irritated that I was going to have to pay the 3D price for a movie I wasn't all that excited about in the first place. To my surprise, the 3D was actually pretty cool. Was it worth the extra price tag? I guess that's debatable, but unlike "Gulliver," the effect was utilized well, and certainly had a reason to exist within the framework of the film.

Also, I've been irritated with Seth Rogan over the last couple of years for being unable to shake this stupid "I'm a man but I want to continue to live like a little boy" persona that seems to have permeated modern male comedy. The guy is affable, but how many times can you watch 30-year-old men tick off their girlfriends because they want to sit around in their underwear playing XBox instead of going out for a romantic dinner or, I don't know, getting a job, maybe? It's infuriating!

Rogan, as millionaire playboy Britt Reid, plays the same basic character in this film, but at least he eventually gets off his butt and does something.

And, as a corollary to the earlier Seth Rogan complaint, I get very tired of watching these comedians, Rogan in particular, behave like walking advertisements for marijuana consumption. I know I sound like an old fogey, but not only is pot-smoking bad for you, it's illegal, and yet Hollywood stars get a pass somehow, as do their films which make it look as though the only people not toking up are those not cool enough to know where to get it.

But in "The Green Hornet?" No weed to be found. Thank goodness.

When Rogan's Britt comes home to find his father dead and the family newspaper empire entirely under his control, the hard-partying heir is understandably at a loss. Teaming up with the mechanical genius and martial arts expert who fixed his father's cars and made his coffee, Kato, Britt decides they might as well fight crime.

After all, they have the time, the resources, the talent (at least Kato does,) and the disposable cash to get started.

They decide to be The Green Hornet and partner, faux criminals who use their outsider status to gain access to the kingpins, in the hopes of bringing them down. Kato tricks out their car with all kinds of neat goodies, like bullet-proof glass, and missiles, and Britt uses his new found newspaper powers to hype his pretend criminal mastermind to the hilt. But will the evil Chudnofsky, a man whose villainy is only topped by his insecurity over the relative scariness of his difficult-to-pronounce name, fall for the ruse? Only time, and a ridiculous amount of mayhem, will tell.

Yes "Hornet" looks very cool, with the gadgets and zingy 3D, but the real success of the film rests with the actors, writers, and director in being able to walk the tightrope between winking fun and all-out farce. "The Green Hornet" is hilarious and never takes itself seriously, yet somehow manages to remain just this side of Joel Schumacher's debacle "Batman and Robin," which was so campy it nearly sunk the career of George Clooney, who survived due in no small part to the fact that his face was covered by a mask for most of the movie.

Instead, "Hornet" plays like a funnier cousin of "Iron Man," where the latter could be described as a comedic action movie, and the former an action-packed comedy. Rogan is perfectly cast in the role of a child of privilege, forced to grow up all at once, but no one can hold a candle to the martial arts exploits and deadpan delivery of Jay Chou as the inimitable Kato. Chou is truly awesome, and lest you think that the fight scenes are the result of clever direction rather than true skill, remember that the director of this film is Michel (pronounced Mee-Shell) Gondry, French author of fanciful thought-provokers like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "The Science of Sleep," not to mention sweet-but-silly low budgeters like "Be Kind, Rewind."

There's nothing in this guy's resume that would suggest that he would have any interest, let alone the ability to direct a big-budget action movie. It would be like Martin Scorsese directing a cute little Reese Witherspoon rom-com. And yet, "The Green Hornet" exists, and is executed masterfully.

I knew that all my fears were for naught in the first five minutes, which features a hilarious exchange between Christoph Waltz's evil Chudnofsky, and a deliciously slimy James Franco. The scene had me and my friends burst out laughing, much to the surprise, I think, of our fellow moviegoers, who, like us, didn't know exactly what to expect.

It wasn't long, however, before the entire audience was busting up, and Gondry's "Hornet" had us just where it wanted us.

Grade: A-

"The Green Hornet" is rated PG-13 for comic book violence, at times gruesome, and language.

As a post-script, I have to mention that, though the 3D in the film was fun, it wasn't mind-blowing or absolutely integrated. That prize goes to, as much as I hate to admit it, the trailer for "Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon." I'm sure that movie is going to be terrible, but watching the preview in 3D, I uttered the phrase "Wow," not once, but twice. My grudging and metaphorical cap is off to you, Michael Bay. For now.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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