By Caryn James | James on Screens January 12, 2011 at 5:01AM
Even slimmed down, Seth Rogen brings the good-hearted shlubiness of his Knocked Up character to his superhero’s role in The Green Hornet. Michel Gondry may be its director – and he’s usually a film’s wizard -- but The Green Hornet is Seth Rogen’s show. As actor and writer he provides its most winning qualities.
The script, by Rogen and his Superbad co-writer, Evan Goldberg, echoes that film’s absurdist observations of guys together, while using and sending up every rule in the old superhero playbook.
Britt Reid (Rogen) is a playboy who has issues with his media-baron father (Tom WIlkinson). When he becomes a crime fighter he chooses one of those insect-animal names -- bats, spiders, whatever – and has lots of boy-toy gadgetry to help him. And the homoerotic undertone of all those hero-buddy movies becomes a running joke between The Green Hornet and Kato (Jay Chou). “Girls are such a drag, Kato. Thank goodness we have each other,” is one of many times the script brings to the surface -- only to dismiss – what superhero movies have spent decades avoiding. Kato is the brains of the operation, and when Britt shouts, “I’m the hero, you’re my sidekick,” he’s stubbornly claiming a stature that is obsolete in this tongue-in-cheek version.
Apart from Rogen’s comic moments, though (which include jamming Kato’s face between foosball players) The Green Hornet is nothing special. The action, with lots of fiery car chases, is fine. The conversion to 3-D is fine, if slightly dizzying and unnecessary; you’d have to be a connoisseur of action to care that Gondry used different speeds to film different characters in some sequences. Cameron Diaz, as Britt’s smart assistant, would probably be fine if she had anything much to do. Christoph Waltz as the villain is another story. Nicolas Cage reportedly planned to play that part with a Jamaican accent before he walked away from the film, and he might as well have. Waltz’s accent seems to come from Austria by way of Tony Soprano’s Jersey.
There is a great cameo from – have you ever heard this name? – James Franco. Yes, he is everywhere, but he is funny.
The Green Hornet (opening Friday) benefits from its early bad buzz. The movie is not amazingly good, but Rogen makes it entertaining, which is a more than anyone might have expected.