Directed by Michel Gondry. Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz.
It’s a super slapstick and fun take on what used to be a serious radio drama about a superhero who appeared to play on both sides of the fence for the greater good.
“The Green Bee” says Seth Rogen’s character Britt Reid, son of the recently dead billionaire James Reid (Tom Wilkinson) when his newspaper’s team ask him what to call the masked vigilante who’s stirring up LA’s criminal underworld. Of course his trusty sidekick Kato (Jay Chou) jumps in to his rescue creating the legendary that is the team of the Green Hornet.
After debuting on radio, the character of the Green Hornet, his man Friday (sorta like Batman’s Robin) Kato and the Black Beauty (their 1964 Chrysler Imperial, with some nifty modifications to blow up crafty traffic cameras) had a run on TV in the 40s and 60s. I remember watching a couple of episodes of Hornet on TV when I was a kid (in reruns, I’m not that old) and thought it was pretty cool at the time. But it was a serious series and when I heard about Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express, Knocked Up) playing the Hornet I thought ‘this is gonna be so spoofy’. Even Rogen had commented: “Everyone’s going to think it’s going to be insane and terrible and we’ll just have to keep our heads down and make it, and then it’ll come out and then people will slowly see that we weren’t nuts and that it was actually a good idea.”
You can see that talented writer that he is (in addition to being exec producer), Rogen has made this film his and plays to what he does best. There’s lots of improvisation in the banter between him and Jay Chou. Rogen’s comic mind is on display at several points. There’s a scene where he and his sidekick Kato don’t see eye-to-eye and are sorta in competition and a fight ensues between the two. It’s a classic scene that’s been emulated from Peter Seller’s Revenge of the Pink Panther. Inspector Clouseau’s assistant in the film is called Cato (not with a K) and the two have it out at Clouseau’s pad but that’s more as fight practise than an actual skirmish.
The Green Hornet never takes itself too seriously as a film but then you realise he’s an outdated superhero. In today’s world of 3-D and super powered, super menacing heroes and villains, what’s a guy with an overcoat and a gas gun going to do for you? Attitude, comic timing, frat boy humour and bumbling villains do the trick to make it contemporary.
The 3-D isn’t really that great though but hey, looks like we’re gonna have to live with it. Cameron Diaz as Britt Reid’s personal assistant is purely there for some eye-candy (though she’s been looking old ever since Knight And Day with Tom Cruise) and to be sexually harassed by Reid. Oscar winner (Best Supporting Actor in Inglourious Basterds) Christoph Waltz as the trying-hard-to-be-scary villain Chudnofsky is a tad underutilised but fun to watch. And though director Michel Gondry, the mastermind behind the fantastic Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, had to hold back a bit for this one considering it was a ‘commercial venture’ his wacky technique cannot be missed.