Directed by Michael Gondry
Starring Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Edward James Olmos, Tom Wilkinson, David Harbour
Written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg based on The Green Hornet by George W. Trendle, Fran Striker
“So what if we had a hero movie, where the hero is a semi-conscious partier who decides to give heroism a half-hearted try?”
This is the scenario that runs through my mind as I watch this half-assed, full-budgeted story from the writers of Superbad and Pineapple Express. Truthfully, it feels much like the kids from the former movie came up with this movie during one of their all night sleepovers.
Fortunate son is a louse. Newspaper baron Dad is constant with his disapproval. Dad dies in conditions that should be suspicious, but aren’t, because the son is, you know, clueless. Next thing you know, son wakes up, bitches to sole remaining staff that his coffee isn’t just right. Lone staff remarks it was made by one of the many staff he laid off in the wake of his father’s death. Enter Kato. Coffee maker, gadget maker, car driver, ass kicker. Okay, exposition is out of the way.
No more information is needed, really. There is always a bad guy, always escalation, always a dimly genius hot chick and definitely the false crisis as they head for the real crisis. Add in a steady batch of cluelessness, and you have this movie in the tiniest nutshell, which is more, really, than it needs.
The movie looks good in 2D, but I don’t bother with retrofit 3D. Technically the film is sound. The car and gadgets look good, they work in enough references to the predecessor(s). The fight scenes are okay. The story is average.
The problems with this film are with casting, essentially. Seth Rogen has come up aces so far in his career. This was bound to happen in a town notorious for having more money than ideas. His character lacks any sort of sense, common or otherwise. What is he doing here? The movie never figures out how to make a believable answer to this question.
Waltz, essentially is in his Oscar hangover stage. He was brilliant in Inglorious Basterds,
and here, well, they just told him to do more of that. Great. His performance is like watching World B. Free going “iso” against the Clippers of any era. Watching that much talent flail around uncontested makes him seem, well, less talented.
Too much talent doesn’t seem to be the case for Cameron Diaz. As Lenore, she just sits around, yammers on about John Gotti. In this movie, that qualifies her to be the “brains” of the operation. She starts to have an interest in Chou’s Kato, but then, in a move that feels like audience testing, that whole thing just dissipates into thin air. Which leaves her back to sitting around. Great.
The casting that worked was Wilkinson, who works in any role, and Chou, as Kato. Choosing to make Kato the true backbone of the operation was one of the few wise moves of the film. Giving him a limited mastery of the English language does not make him any less compelling. He is always the smartest one in the room. Oh, and the best fighter. Still, they could have made him only slightly smarter than the lead character. That might have added some heft to the story.
The most ridiculous scene in the movie takes place during the obligatory fight between the good guys. That Rogen’s Britt Reid could last more than 5 seconds against Kato stretches believability more than any of the outlandish car scenes that took place in the film. When you are the writer and the star, you can’t let your ass kicked, even if it is by a character that was played by Bruce Lee at one point.
Is this the worst way to spend a Saturday night? It’s close. This film was not made to be remembered. It was made to fill a slow period (winter) in the yearly movie schedule. So if you are home on a Tuesday with a cold and the weather is horrible, give it a shot. Otherwise, go outside…or even watch Judge Judy reruns.
(**1/2 out of *****)