There should be no doubt that director Michel Gondry ( Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ) is a genius; unfortunately, his 3D action/comedy spectacle, The Green Hornet , isn’t. It’s really more of a by-the-book bro-mantic comedy at heart, which is no surprise since it was written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg ( Superbad ). Still, it is an interesting step taken by an interesting director and does have a handful of thrills and modest laughs.
A thinned-down Rogen, displaying little trace of his previous schmucky, star-making roles, is Britt Reid, your average egotistical playboy. He’s left in charge of a major L.A. newspaper when his father (Tom Wilkinson) turns up dead. Britt becomes close with his father’s super-genius mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou), and before you know it, he decides that what he’d really like to do is fight crime.
Luckily, Kato is also a karate expert, so when Britt hits the streets under the name “The Green Hornet,” he’s actually able to upset things in the L.A. underworld and catch the attention of the nefarious Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). Along the way there’s a fantastic cameo from James Franco as a rival drug lord, Edward James Olmos as a crusty old newspaper man and Cameron Diaz as Britt’s secretary/love interest. In the hands of Gondry, Rogen and Goldberg, this 1930s radio serial becomes a spoof of superhero cinema, similar to what Rogen and director David Gordon Green did to the action thriller genre with Pineapple Express . And after several years now of ultra-dark, hard-boiled super heroics, it’s a refreshing approach to take.
But there’s something a little too casual about The Green Hornet . It feels extremely unfocused, which is insane considering that this movie has been in the works, in one form or another, since 1992. One big problem is how strangely so much of the dialogue is delivered. Many conversations, especially between Rogen and Chou, feel like they’re audition footage, like the actors are slightly hesitant and uncomfortable. Much of this probably has to do with Chou’s less than perfect command of English, and perhaps because Gondry, a Frenchman, isn’t native to the language himself.
That might sound like a small criticism, but it’s one of several weak links that leave The Green Hornet less than satisfying, both for fans of Gondry and, presumably, for fans of the character.