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Josh Reviews The Green Hornet

January 24th, 2011
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Some movies are so bad that they are soul-crushingly painful.  It kills me when I sit down in a movie theatre with great hope and anticipation for a new film, only to watch my dreams slowly shatter as the turd-on-film unfolds.  I’m not talking about films that disappoint, I’m talking about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull spirit-demolishing catastrophes.  These films are just sad.

Then there are the films that are also terrible, but in a different way that makes them laughably ridiculous (as opposed to shoot-me-now painful).  These are the films that are so over-the top bonkers, so wrong-headedly BAD, that you just can’t help but laugh at the madness you’re watching on display.

The Green Hornet definitely fits into the latter category.

I didn’t have high hopes for this film, but I have great respect for the talents involved (including Seth Rogen, who I’ve found hysterical ever since Freaks and Geeks, and director Michel Gondry, who helmed the amazingly beautiful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and so I had some interest in checking out what they had done with the pulp story of the Green Hornet.

Wowzers.  This film is so unbelievably terrible right from the first scene that it’s jaw-dropping.

I’m not kidding.  RIGHT FROM THE FIRST SCENE this movie is awful.  That first scene shows us Seth Rogen’s character, Britt Reid, as a child, being berated  by his father (played by Tom Wilkinson).  I guess this scene is supposed to show us the complicated father-son relationship between these two, and also perhaps instill in us some sympathy for young Britt.  But the scene does neither because it’s so over-the-top in every single respect as to be ludicrous.  Tom Wilkinson — one of the finest actors working today — plays Britt’s father James, and he has never been worse in a film.  He’s stiff and forced to spout silly, over-the-top dialogue that hits us over the head with the idea that he’s a jerk who is insensitive to his son.  Meanwhile the music is going full-bore ominous, there’s a crazy sound effect when James pops the head off his son’s toy, and right there I was shifting in my seat thinking “uh oh.”  Everything is dialed up to eleven.  James isn’t just a jerk, he’s a JERK with capital letters who is completely, one-dimensionally horrible to his kid.  The music is over-the-top.  The sound-effects are over-the-top.

And the WHOLE MOVIE is just like that scene.

Oh, sure, there are some jokes that are funny.  I mean, you can’t have Seth Rogen on screen for two hours and not laugh occasionally.  But the ratio of jokes that hit to jokes that miss is embarrassing.  And yes, there’s some cool action.  Jay Chao, who plays Kato, gets to kick some serious ass in the film.  But for every moment when there’s a fun, cool bit of action, there are ten other action sequences that either a) are edited so awkwardly as to be very difficult to follow, b) are so crazily over-the top silly as to take one right out of the story, c) go on for so long that what started as fun or silly just becomes boring (the Britt/Kato spat late in the film is the most egregious example of this), or d) all of the above.  The Kato-vision scenes are sort of cool, but they don’t really make any sense at all.  (Is Kato a robot?  I kept thinking of Zurg-Vision every time the screen went red and Kato-vision began.  And even if I can believe that somehow Kato is so highly-trained that he can think about his action moves so quickly, a la Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes, how is it that schlubby Britt is able to develop this super-vision himself by the end of the film??)

There are some fun actors involved, but they’re all pretty much wasted.  Christoph Waltz has some fun scenes as the villain Chudnofsky, but once the character decides to adopt a silly super-villain name I just rolled my eyes.  It’s so ridiculous that it’s funny for about a second, but then you’re supposed to take the character seriously as a menace for the rest of the movie and it’s just impossible.  I got excited when I saw Edward James Olmos, but he has nothing to do in the film.  I expected his character to come into conflict with Britt, who comes in and starts taking control of the newspaper Olmos’ character, Mike, ran for years with James’ father, but instead Mike just spends the movie rolling his eyes at Britt’s antics.  Mr. Olmos is also saddled with some painfully expository dialogue.  When we first meet him, he has this speech that he delivers to Britt that basically gives us his whole back-story: I was best friends with your father for 45 years and we ran this newspaper together and blah blah blah.  All things that, in a more skillfully crafted film, we’d be SHOWN as opposed to TOLD.

And then there’s poor Cameron Diaz.  What the heck is Cameron Diaz doing in this film??  Look, I love Cameron Diaz.  She’s beautiful and she has terrific charisma and presence on screen.  I remember seeing The Mask back in 1994, and she was fantastic.  It was a star-making performance, and with good reason.  But I feel sort of sad for her that, almost twenty years later, she’s back in a dumb super-hero film.  Except that in The Mask, she was clearly a main character with a key part to play in the film’s story.  Here, she’s not really a character at all.  She’s just a plot mechanism to create some tension between Britt and Kato.  What a waste!

The Green Hornet is trying desperately to be Iron Man.  It wants so badly to have that hip, funny sense of fun and play combined with an engaging, intense super-hero story that the first Iron Man film displayed so effortlessly.

But The Green Hornet is not Iron Man.  Not hardly.

Avoid this one at all costs, gang.

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