Dir: Michel Gondry. US. 2011. 118mins


A superhero movie with the soul of a bromance, The Green Hornet is consistently mildly amusing but never quite as fun as it should be. Starring and co-written by Seth Rogen, this action-comedy gets much of its spark from the interplay between Rogen and Jay Chou as a mismatched crime-fighting team, but in trying to offer a wiseass spin on caped-crusader conventions, the film lurches more than it soars.

The film’s central conceit – these would-be superheroes are really just regular guys – gives The Green Hornet a breezy, laidback charm.

Opening this weekend, The Green Hornet will cater to young men who know Rogen’s previous work and will be attracted by the mixture of laughs and explosions. The film’s 3-D conversion will bring extra dollars to Sony, but younger audiences’ general unfamiliarity with the Green Hornet character may temper overall grosses.

After the death of his father, irresponsible playboy Britt Reid (Rogen) joins forces with his dad’s employee Kato (Chou) to battle crime in Los Angeles. Dubbing himself The Green Hornet, Britt runs afoul of the city’s greatest criminal mastermind, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), who wants the duo eliminated.

Based on a property that originated as a radio series in the 1930s, The Green Hornet has come to the big screen with two unlikely names attached: the comic Rogen as its star and fanciful Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind helmer Michel Gondry as its director. Not surprisingly, then, this film adaptation boasts a loopy, sarcastic tone from the outset that thumbs its nose at the gloomy origin stories and brooding heroes of other comic book and superhero movies.

In doses, Rogen’s every-dude persona has its pleasures, portraying Britt as a bit of a bozo whose heart is in the right place, even if he’s mostly worthless in a fight as compared to Kato’s stunning martial arts skills. Unfortunately, while the film’s central conceit – these would-be superheroes are really just regular guys – gives The Green Hornet a breezy, laidback charm, it makes it that much more difficult to be invested when the stakes ratchet up in the second half and their lives are repeatedly put in great danger.

If ultimately The Green Hornet wants it both ways – satirising comic book movies while trying to deliver a believable replica of one at the same time – it would have helped matters considerably if the action plot were more compelling. But since Rogen and his co-writer Evan Goldberg don’t really take the darker or more thoughtful elements of their story seriously, The Green Hornet becomes that rare action movie that’s almost completely free of tension or legitimate stakes. (With this in mind, the 3-D conversion seems all the more superfluous: Wouldn’t these filmmakers find such a gimmick laughable in the movies they’re tweaking?)

Rogen’s supporting cast further reflects the film’s silly spirit, particularly Waltz who, as the painfully insecure villain Chudnofsky, essays a comparable baddie to his Oscar-winning role in Inglourious Basterds, albeit one who’s much goofier. Cameron Diaz is a good sport as the brainy potential love interest for both Britt and Kato, and Chou does a sturdy job playing the quiet straight man to Britt’s overbearing buffoonery.   

Production company: Original Film

Domestic distribution: Columbia Pictures

Producer: Neal H. Moritz

Executive producers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Michael Grillo, Ori Marmur, George W. Trendle, Jr.

Screenplay: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, based upon The Green Hornet radio series created by George W. Trendle

Cinematography: John Schwartzman

Production designer: Owen Paterson

Editor: Michael Tronick

Music: James Newton Howard

Website: www.greenhornetmovie.com

Main cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Christoph Waltz, Edward James Olmos, David Harbour