The Green Hornet

"Everyone involved deserves a high five."

Every now and then I like to have my expectations blown out of the water. It doesn't occur often, but when it does, it happens in a big way. The trailers for The Green Hornet had almost convinced me not to see the movie, and definitely haven't been anything worth talking about. I went in expecting a clunky, overly simple plot filled with bad puns and pathetic acting and instead was given a lively, engaging, truly funny buddy comedy. Films can have many purposes -- educational or amusing, revolutionary or mindless -- but after the kind of year we all had, I think it's time to have fun at the movies again, and Green Hornet agrees wholeheartedly.
Set in Los Angeles (though it could truly be any major city in America), the film first introduces irresponsible party boy Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), who unexpectedly loses his father (Tom Wilkinson) and is suddenly in charge of a newspaper empire, which he attempts to pass off into more capable hands. After meeting his father's mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou), and getting a glimpse of his crime-fighting abilities after a prank goes wrong, Reid schemes up a plan to fight crime as the Green Hornet with Kato alongside. What makes the Green Hornet different? He'll pose as a bad guy to lure in the villains, and then take them down one by one. When one major player (Christoph Waltz) takes him on, will the Green Hornet and Kato be able to stay in the crime-fighting business long enough to do any good?
Now, there are a few weaknesses here, namely that the movie takes its time in setting up. It takes a while for the Green Hornet to materialize, but once he does the story moves along nicely. The script is penned by Seth Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg (also responsible for Pineapple Express and Superbad) and it stays mostly in familiar territory for the two: the buddy comedy. There's not a great deal of introspection or exposition in the film, we don't learn much about motivations or desires. The script expends so much energy on the Green Hornet and Kato that there's not much room for villains or anyone else to take the stage, and that's what keeps Green Hornet from being fantastic. However, it's also what makes the movie so much fun to watch. The movie is directed by Michel Gondry, who hasn't fared so well in his recent ventures (The Science of Sleep or Be Kind, Rewind), yet here Gondry has kept all of his fanciful impulses in check and allowed the clever script and well-done action sequences to propel the film forward.
As far as acting goes, Tom Wilkinson is the weak cartoonish link in an otherwise tremendously strong cast. Christoph Waltz, as the mild-mannered yet determined villain Chudnofsky, is such a pleasure to watch it is a pity he's underused, much the same as Cameron Diaz in her small role as Britt Reid's brainy secretary. It's so much fun to watch the Green Hornet and Kato pal around and fiddle with their cool gadgets that you almost don't miss the rest of the cast. And on that note -- the real star of the film would easily be Jay Chou; as Kato he attacks with the calm, practiced eye of a martial arts wizard, his cars and inventive gadgets are Batman-levels of awesome, and he is the perfect foil to the bouncy and over-eager Green Hornet as played by Rogen. There's also a few fun supporting character cameos that I won't ruin for you here.
Fans of the franchise in all its incarnations may not be as excited for the film, as it is silly rather than serious, and more focused on the buddy comedy and less on the actual story of the Green Hornet, but everyone involved deserves a high five for taking one of the last undeveloped comic book entities and turning it into a good movie with plenty of room for sequels. I'm not a huge fan of 3-D as I think it adds extra dollars to already high ticket prices; however, I would even go so far as to recommend seeing the film in 3-D, as it adds rather than detracts from the overall story. The Green Hornet is hilarious, fun to watch, and I found myself laughing throughout -- the perfect antidote to the heavy-handed awards season films that always swamp audiences at the end of the year.

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