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film review: The Green Hornet

by Leonard Maltin
January 17, 2011 2:25 AM
7 Comments
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It’s difficult to describe The Green Hornet because even it doesn’t know what it wants to be. The result is a noisy, overlong attention-deficit jumble of semi-serious story threads undermined by an anarchic sense of humor, with the most pointless (and ineffectual) use of 3-D in recent memory.

Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg wanted to have fun with the concept of an action movie, and were handed the old radio and television property The Green Hornet as their vehicle. They’ve retained the bare bones of the original: a young man named Brit Reid inherits a big-city newspaper from his father and uses it as a vehicle to fight crime, adopting a secret identity. The writers felt, from the start, that both the sidekick Kato and the sleek—

—car called the Black Beauty were much cooler than their hero—an odd twist that suits their irreverent sensibilities. But collaborating with the ingenious and experimental director Michel Gondry has resulted in a movie that goes off in even more directions than they might have envisioned. (I still can’t quite figure out what Cameron Diaz is doing in the picture.)

I like to make an emotional investment in a movie, even (or perhaps especially) a comic-book-style yarn. Rogen and Goldberg deliberately try to undermine that—except when they periodically decide to inject some plot points. If you can’t take the hero seriously, and the villains are painted as recklessly violent buffoons, what’s left for an audience to hang onto?

The answer, I suppose, is a series of jokes and a lot of high-energy action scenes. But even those ingredients need some context in order to work…and there is no reason on earth for this hodgepodge to take up two full hours.

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7 Comments

  • Mario Peixoto Alves | April 4, 2011 8:02 AMReply

    The Green Hornet is one of the worst movies I've ever seen in my entire life. Nothing works, the plot, the direction and the actors are terrible for more to Seth Rogen and less to the actor who plays Kato. Often falls to the comedy and it soon becomes without direction and bland. It is a shame that the producers know nothing about the heroes of yesteryear, when we had more action and less explanation, as things are going heroes and superheroes will disappear soon, will all dead (murdered by new producers and new directors).

  • Brett | January 23, 2011 7:38 AMReply

    This film marks an inauspicious beginning to the 2011 movie season for me.

  • Phil Bloom | January 19, 2011 1:52 AMReply

    I've got to side with Mike Schlesinger on this one. I refuse to see this travesty, being a fan who STILL listens to the excellent old radio serials via iTunes. I am much much too young to have been around during the early days of both "Green Hornet" and "Lone Ranger", yet, growing up in Detroit, enjoyed the regular television reruns well into my teen years (I only hope they don't attempt the same treatment with "Lone Ranger" or "Sergeant Preston" should they attempt to make features of them).

    I'm not quite sure who the powers that be are going after when they make features of old television programing? When they infuse the sexual innuendo, the potty humor, the drug using characterizations, and the slapstick humor to programs that contained NONE OF THAT, they mostly alienate the original fans of said programs.

  • alan aperlo | January 18, 2011 1:08 AMReply

    This is not the green hornet that I seen as a kid . This is for kids that are nuts.

  • mike schlesinger | January 17, 2011 11:07 AMReply

    Leonard, you're far too kind. If the next Batman film depicted him as a drunken, arrogant, incompetent, frat-boy screw-up and Robin as the one who beat up all the bad guys, invented all the bat-gadgets and even drove the Batmobile, a film in which the two of them were both trying to bang the same woman, often fighting and destroying large parts of stately Wayne Manor while calling each other "dick" and "pussy," a film in which the Joker changed his name to Jokofsky and killed any henchman who still called him The Joker while worrying more about how his jacket looks than terrorizing Gotham City--and oh, yeah, the Dynamic Duo were played by Zach Galafianakis and Jonah Hill--how do you think Batman fans would react? You're darn right: there'd be a lynch mob on Christopher Nolan's front lawn. Isn't The Green Hornet, a character that predates not only Batman but all superheroes and masked crime fighters except The Shadow, worthy of at least the same respect?

  • DBenson | January 17, 2011 8:05 AMReply

    Just a note: The Universal serials presented Kato as the genius inventor of Black Beauty and all the neat gadgets (even though Keye Luke played him as an understated servant/sidekick -- the opposite of his energetic Chan character).

    The 60's TV series offered future superstar Bruce Lee as a martial arts master Kato, who even then upstaged Van Williams as a cool and businesslike Hornet (it was meant to be straight, despite all the overlap with "Batman"). Lee gave that version a cult following and it may well be the one the scriptwriters remembered when they started out.

  • Dan | January 17, 2011 6:52 AMReply

    I enjoyed the movie with some reservations.
    Britt Reid should not be portrayed as a bumbling fool.
    It was nice that a brief nod to the Lone Ranger was given.
    While it was also nice to see George Trendle, JR listed on the credits, the lack of a Fran Striker credit was sad.
    Now that the characters have been set up, I'd like to see Rogen do a sequel and have another try.

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