9.04.2011

The Green Hornet (2011)


Dumb as a bag of hammers. Yeah, that's how I like my superheroes. I especially like them willing to blow up anything, including innocent people. I admire a superhero who strews mayhem and mess across the screen, leaving other people to clean up after him. /sarcasm

Seth Rogen has only himself to blame. As the writer, producer and star of this movie, it's all on him. Newsflash for Rogen: The people around you who told you this script worked lied. You need new sycophants, dude. Rogen does a great job presenting Britt Reid as a dissolute playboy with a big "daddy doesn't love me" chip on his shoulder. Soon, we hope to see him get his wake-up call. But that turns out to be wanting better coffee, not a better world.

When he inherits his father's newspaper and a mechanic who makes great coffee, he goes right on being an irresponsible frat boy. The mechanic's engineering skills are employed to build a super great car which Britt intends to use to go and do cool stuff, like cut the head off his father's statue. Kato (the brilliant mechanic and martial artist) is okay with this use of his skills. He appears to have no desire in life, given his brilliance, than to be a tool for a rich guy who thinks seeking justice is just another way to party.

Inevitably, the two buddies end up fighting over a girl, Britt's new secretary Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz). At last, there are brains in the movie, but it's only the final few minutes of the movie that Britt ceases to sexually harass his employee. He even apologizes for being a jerk, then tries to kiss her anyway. Ha ha, wow, that's so funny, that he's basically unrepentant after saying he was sorry. This very same gag works when Chris Tucker does it in Rush Hour, but he's not the woman's boss and both the woman and the audience knows he's shining us all on. Rogen goes for sincere, then ruins it by proving what a good liar Britt is. In any case, why would Lenore forgive him, let alone help him embark on a career of being an ass?

The above mentioned man fight over the cute girl is actual fisticuffs, nearly four minutes worth of throwing lamps and slapping. If they were aiming to be as hilarious as Inspector Clouseau's notorious training fights with his servant Cato, they left out the part where it's hilarious. 

All in all, Britt is a loser. A loser in a mask going out to do some crime-fighting fun stuff is even more of a loser when everything he does leads to dangerous car chases with the bodies of police officers and bystanders piling up in his wake. The movie is 80% complete and we're still waiting for him to get a wake-up call. Regardless of the number of people who have been injured or died during The Green Hornet's forays into crime-fighting (which appear to be comprised of running away from police cars operated by student drivers), his conscience is only stirred when his adversary, the not-really-crazy-enough Chudnofsky, begins killing people who wear green or drive green cars in an attempt to kill The Green Hornet. (Never mind that The Green Hornet doesn't wear green or drive a green car.)

Lots of things blow up in pretty ordinary ways. Missiles and gadgets abound in the Black Beauty, which is also driven through walls and buildings. At the 95% mark it seems like Britt might be finally taking on what could almost be superhuman abilities. Alas, he trips and falls, a screw-up to the end. Wisecracks abound, none of which are clever, and overall, in scene after scene, all I could think was "what a waste." Edward James Olmos is in this movie, what a waste--I hope he got a BIG paycheck. Cameron Diaz, what a waste. Chudnofsky is played by the chilling Christoph Waltz, the Oscar winner from Inglorious Bastards, what a waste--his part nearly made sense but Waltz's talent couldn't save what wasn't there.

I smiled exactly once: Chudnofsky's henchmen had a sad, incompetent quality that reminded me of the Batman TV series, and they spent a lot of their time propping up their boss's ego. But that sad sack campy element didn't extend to their boss or anything else in the movie.

This movie ended up being a horrible salad, a toss-together of elements by Rogen, who seems to have donned a blindfold and rummaged through the superhero pantry without regard to what elements he grabbed. And he missed the biggest one: admiration. There is no reason to admire Britt or The Green Hornet. He even managed to bankrupt Kato of his best-sidekick-ever cachet.

Director Michel Gondry completed the destruction of Kato's cool with martial arts sequences that splintered in focus so that it was clear Kato was a mash-up of special effects with a moderately gifted gymnast/martial artist doing some of the stunts. The ghost of Bruce Lee should heap curses upon Gondry for that; until now Kato was fondly recalled by most fans of the TV show as hands down the coolest of all sidekicks. Jackie Chan, with a broken ankle and a high fever, could have choreographed and performed sequences in a more interesting way, as could any of Jackie's stunt crew. There is also the use of time-lapse for a silly Buster Keaton effect and then gratuitous slow motion popping out of nowhere, for no real reason.

I have to mention the soundtrack. Here, the obvious desire to make some cool music videos comes through, and some of the pairings of scene and music work. What didn't work, and bordered on offensive for me, was the use of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise." Britt and Kato sing along to this song about black youth dying young as they drive out for a night of hijinx and pranks for which they, wealthy and privileged, will face no consequences. If the point was that we think they are a couple of worthless poseurs who know nothing of what the song means or what it feels like to consider it a miracle to live to see 24 years of age, then it succeeded wildly. Do I think that Rogen meant it to be ironic? I hope so, but that would make it the movie's most sophisticated moment. And even then, it fails--the last thing a superhero should ever be is a poseur. At some point, they must become authentic heroes, flaws and all.

I didn't think any action film could feature a hero that made the sidekick hot chicks in the Transformers franchise look like rocket scientists, but this one did. I also thought that Captain America was the lukewarm bottom of the barrel for superhero movies in 2011, but The Green Hornet dug a new hole and fell in. Since it was one of the season's first releases, it turned out that everything else was up. This season, the other green movie, The Green Lantern, succeeded better is creating an expectation and delivering what it set out to do: entertain us by taking an ordinary man and making him a believable, admirable hero. There is nothing like that in The Green Hornet.

The Green Hornet (2011)

One-Line Summary
The Green Hornet (2011): The people who surrounded Seth Rogen and told him that his script worked all lied while director Michel Gondry needs to stop ordering up CGI that was boring ten years ago to fill in script gaps.

What's It Worth?
The Green Hornet (2011): Only those people who have to see bad movies to really believe they're that bad will think that it was worth their time. Nobody else should waste time or money on it. I am thankful that it was a free on-demand cable movie, but I wish I had my two hours back. Nothing.

Watch it Again?
The Green Hornet (2011): Nope, not one sequence in the movie is worth a rewatch. I would need Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot running the show to endure any part of this movie again. never