Oh Seth Rogen, how I’ve missed you. It’s been about a year and a half since your last starring role (Funny People), and while I was one of few admirers of that film, it’s nice to have you back where you’re obviously far more comfortable. As great as it is to see you improv scenes with your buddies, you seem especially at ease when you’re working with your own material and it rings even more true now with The Green Hornet finally gracing the big screen.
As Rogen has shown through his work on TV (Undeclared, Da Ali G Show) and even more so in film (Superbad, Pineapple Express and even Drillbit Taylor), along with long-time best friend/co-writer Evan Goldberg, there’s no material they can’t make spectacularly funny. Having the luck of working with such directors at the helm (Judd Apatow, Greg Mottola, David Gordon Green and finally, Michel Gondry), they were all surprising choices having mostly indie cred amongst them.
Having been a fan of Gondry’s since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, some of his misfires have still been great work if a little misguided. Human Nature had an interesting enough script but it appeared as if the studios didn’t have enough faith in him to bring all his talent to the table. The Science of Sleep was more heavy-handed than some would have anticipated but was still a great peek into the psyche that is Gondry’s. Admittedly during the first act of The Green Hornet, while he brings on the funny, it’s not until the middle act that he finally unleashes the director we came to see.
Britt Reid starts out like any young and troubled youth. All he wants to do is keep a girl from getting picked on and is sent home from school; sent home really meaning going from the principal’s office to his father’s office. James Reid (Tom Wilkinson) is not your typical superhero father. He’s a single parent trying to run his own “Daily Sentinel” while keeping his dignity intact. If it’s at the expense of his son’s respect while ripping the head off his favorite action figure then so be it.
Twenty years later and dad’s mean spirited parenting techniques have turned Britt into a spoiled overgrown man-child who just wants to keep the party going. Whether making out with girls in every other car in his father’s garage to consensual sleepovers on his pull-out (insert Rogen’s own infectious laugh here), the best part of his day is his morning coffee. The time to grow up comes full force when James is found dead from an allergic reaction to a bee sting while out in the garden. As corny as that may sound you never doubt there’s a reason for something so mundane.
When Britt wakes up to find his morning coffee tasting nothing the same he realizes that’s because the house staff have all been fired including his father’s personal mechanic, Kato (Asian pop star, Jay Chou). After being introduced by Kato to his homemade cappuccino machine and shown a few tricks of his trade in the garage they swap stories of their horrible upbringings they run out to act a fool and cut off the head of his father’s cemetery statue. After Kato proves himself to be a human Swiss army knife during a fight against a band of street thugs after which they decide to band together to strike back at the tyranny happening in the streets as vigilantes.
Meanwhile, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz thankfully replacing Nicolas Cage) has moved in on the Los Angeles territory and has decided to take over. After an explosive meeting with supposed crime syndicate “Crystal Clear,” Chudnofsky thinks the underbelly of L.A. now belongs to him. But soon enough, The Green Hornet is burning down meth labs and striking his own fear into the heart of the underworld making Chudnofsky and making District Attorney Scanlon (David Harbour) a little edgy about the rise in crime as he’s about to re-run for office. Now Chudnofsky wants to take down The Green Hornet and his nameless sidekick and it’s up to Britt and Kato along with their new secretary Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) to keep anonymity and save the day.
For everyone who balked at Seth Rogen as Britt Reid, he’s pretty awesome and hilarious as always. No one understands the true man-child better than Rogen. He truly shows Adam Sandler how such characters are supposed to be portrayed. While he may not have gotten all buffed up for the role, it’s not a necessity. He’s just your average Joe who has lots of money and builds his own tools, sound familiar? So, ok, Kato builds the tools, but how else would we get to the scene where Britt calls himself, “a schmuck who shoots farts at people,” after accidentally shooting himself in the face?
Yes, Britt’s very much like Batman, however, there’s a huge case of egomania happening here. A scene where Britt gets jealous of Kato for hitting on Lenore and orders him to fetch his coffee then almost bursts into tears after Kato punches his fist through a cabinet door handles this to great effect and detail. Jay Chou certainly proves himself a great Kato. At first I was worried about Stephen Chow being replaced but this Chou manages to steal every scene. And even Cameron Diaz manages to bring herself back into the fold with yet another finally likeable character (the last one was in the highly underrated Knight and Day).
And who would have suspected that Michel Gondry would prove himself to be such a competent action director. His films thus far have deftly proven him in the comedy department, even through most of Be Kind Rewind, but here’s a man who knows where to place a camera, how to choreograph a fight scene and how to edit. You always know what’s going on and that sells the action more than anything. As spectacular and over-blown as the set pieces grow, they never get so outlandish that they require a Michael Bay editing approach to make the audience think something bigger is going on. It’s all there for you to take in, sometimes in what appears to be single shots.
So while most are expecting the movie to flat out suck, and admittedly I was not enthused to have the 3D version thrust upon me, give it a chance. Here’s a movie that wholeheartedly belongs in the middle of summer where it would be totally destroyed by the rest of the oncoming onslaught. This may be the best January Hollywood tent pole film in years. Sporting huge action, even bigger laughs and a ridiculous amount of insane fun, The Green Hornet is a great start to 2011 and absolutely should not be missed. Here’s finally our first reason to head out to theaters this winter.
Photo courtesy Columbia Pictures