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The Green Hornet is a comic book buzzkill

Buddy comedy works, but action sequences show a director out of his element

POSTED: January 20, 2011 12:30 a.m.
Jaimie Trueblood/AP Photo/Columbia Pictures-Sony

While the chemistry between Kato (Jay Chou), left, and Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) lead to laughs, the action sequences in "The Green Hornet" leave much to be desired.

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Oh good, another wealthy costumed vigilante with daddy issues. Does anyone else feel like we're using the same fill-in-the-blank template for these movies?

In "The Green Hornet," the spoiled rich kid is named Tony Stark - oops, wrong movie - Britt Reid (Seth Rogen). His father (Tom Wilkinson) is a giant in the newspaper industry who gives Britt a bottomless bank account and shoes too big to fill.

Dad dies, and Britt befriends his former driver, Kato (Jay Chou). For the slimmest of reasons, Britt and Kato end up building an indestructible, weaponized (and admittedly super cool) car and fighting crime.

Britt and Kato plan to take down the city's deadliest criminal (Christoph Waltz) by posing as criminals themselves, which adds the blurring of good and bad that is also standard for this genre.

All we need to fill in all the blanks is a sexy female reporter. Oh hello, Cameron Diaz, welcome to the most mundane comic book movie ever (yes, I know it began as a radio serial).

Director Michel Gondry made, arguably, the best movie of the past decade, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." His work is a blend of high concepts, love letters to cinema and music documentaries.

"The Green Hornet" is his first action movie and it's glaringly, painfully clear he is not suited for this genre.

Rogen and Chou show decent chemistry, and Gondry is smart enough to let them riff. So the buddy comedy half of the movie works well, even though those scenes do drag on.

But the action scenes are clumsy and nonsensical.

The same director who deftly handled a mad, emotional dash through a character's subconscious in "Eternal Sunshine" wasn't able to create a simple action scene with anywhere near the same skill. It hurts to write that about a director I otherwise admire, but there's no way to deny it.

During one chase scene, Kato does a high-speed U-turn in the middle of a highway. In the background we see the real police cars that blocked the highway so Gondry and his crew could film the scene.

Another highway chase scene reveals all the civilian cars in the background actually parked on the side of the road.

The continuity errors are so numerous and obvious they become distracting.

Rogen used a stunt double for many shots in his fight scenes, and the double looks twice Rogen's age, 40 pounds heavier and has dark hair.

This is the kind of thing that becomes fodder for "Mystery Science Theater," and I'm stunned that I saw it in a Gondry film. These are the marks of hurried, sloppy filmmaking.

Of course, the fact that someone who has displayed such fine craftsmanship in the past couldn't handle chase and fight scenes suggests that maybe we should give more credit to good action filmmakers.

Even if the action scenes had been executed well, though, the writers give Kato supernatural powers that make no sense in a film with no superheroes or supervillains.

And at one point, Britt experiences a mental visit from his dead father that makes even less sense. I mean, why not just crib from "Hamlet" and make Dad a ghost? That's more believable than a son who has never been close to his father suddenly developing a psychic connection to him in the afterlife.

Rogen co-wrote the film with his longtime collaborator, Evan Goldberg. They excel at writing buddy comedy but struggle with story development, another painfully obvious flaw of "The Green Hornet."

The setup is as awkward and forced as any costumed crime fight film I've seen. Why does Britt have daddy issues? Why does he decide to fight crime? Because that's just what happens in these movies. The story gives us little reason beyond that, and it feels like we're merely painting by numbers.

The writing is so bad it makes Tom Wilkinson look like a bad actor, and that's probably this movie's only true accomplishment.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.



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