I remember how when the first trailer for The Green Hornet premiered on the Internet, a lot of people were saying how poorly made the movie looked. I held out hope. When it comes to your typical movie-goer, I sometimes feel like advertising tries to truly appeal to the lowest common denominator. I mean, a film written by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (co-writers of Superbad and Pineapple Express) and a film directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, Block Party) couldn't be that bad. Yes, everyone was complaining how Seth Rogen was miscast, but he proved he could handle more serious material with Funny People and he has two somewhat dramatic films being made right now.
I always liked the idea behind this character. In this incarnation, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is a spoiled trust-fund adult who parties his life away. His father (Tom Wilkinson) mysteriously dies leaving Britt in charge of the fortune and his father's employees which include Kato (Jay Chou), who designed really cool cars with weaponry for Britt's father. When Britt and Kato spend a night out on the town fooling around, they end up saving some lives, but get bad press the next day and are labeled criminals. This gives Britt the bright idea to masquerade as the Green Hornet, a crime-fighter who pretends to be like the villains, but secretly takes them down from the inside. With the help of his father's newspaper company editor (Edward James Olmos) and his new criminology-minded secretary (Cameron Diaz), Britt and Kato plan to take down the gangster known as Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). So, like I said, I didn't think The Green Hornet could turn out that bad. It sounds like it might even be fun.
Well, I was quite wrong. Now, The Green Hornet had been in development hell for quite a while with many actors, directors, and writers attached. The closest we ever came was Jake Gyllenhaal, Stephen Chow, and Kevin Smith respectively. Kevin Smith's more serious version is currently being published as a comic book by Dynamite Entertainment and he treated the super-heroics the way they should be treated- seriously. Goldberg and Rogen decided to turn this into an action-comedy. We know they can write action (see Pineapple Express). The comedy part also wasn't that bad, in fact I laughed a few times. It just wasn't appropriate for this movie. If anything, it made everything feel too childish where nothing would have any emotional consequence. In fact, the core problem of this movie is the emotionless script. The dialogue does very little alongside the events to advance the plot or characters giving us the stereotypical PG-13-itized action-comedy movie that we saw a lot of in the early 2000's.
The cast didn't do the best job either. Cameron Diaz simply stood around and smiled so the camera could pan over to someone attractive, sadly I don't think Jay Chou was ever trained in acting (he is apparently a popular musician in Asia), and Christoph Waltz pretty much just sneers and acts villainous every so often. The worst miscasting of this whole thing is unfortunately Rogen. In fact, I can't complain much about the rest of the cast when Seth Rogen is shouting over them with improved lines about how his character is a party-boy and loves drinking and women. Unfortunately, Rogen and Chou also don't nail the relationship dynamic needed between Kato and the Hornet. In fact, the relationship is more competitive if anything and we spend more time with that aspect than their camaraderie with each other.
In terms of Gondry's influence, he makes everything flashy and look like one of his music videos. That isn't a bad thing, it just does nothing for the story. I did have the chance to see this in 3-D and that was a bore as well. I'm "thankful" we have technology to show us that Kato was standing behind Britt because "apparently" without 3-D, I can't tell that just from looking at a two-dimensional shot of them. I don't mean to be too harsh to this film, it is harmless much like another recent action-comedy (well, unintentional comedy) The Tourist. In fact, comparing it to The Tourist is a fair comparison because both movies had so much potential to be something truly cool and fun. In this case, Goldberg and Rogen's story takes one miscalculated turn after the other and is only made worse by mediocre performances.