While The Green Hornet primarily takes its cues from the classic 1930s radio serial and the popular adaptation for 1960s television, the writing and producing team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are actually creating a slightly softer strain of their own Pineapple Express. Both feature unintentional action heroes getting in over their heads irking local drug dealers, and both (Hornet to a lesser extent than Pineapple) deliver a satisfying blend of impressive action pyrotechnics and bromance-style comedy, with Rogen and Goldberg inviting a critically acclaimed auteur to give their screenplay a powerful dose of directorial flair. Hornet trades in the R-rating for a teen-friendly PG-13 and tacks on a shiny 3D post-conversion, losing a little comedic "oomph" in the process, but all in all, the result is a surprise crowd-pleaser that adds a little spark to the logjammed "comic book origin" structure.
James Reid (Tom Wilkinson) is a man of integrity. That his son Britt (Rogen) is not only uninterested in the newspaper empire he has created at The Daily Sentinel is only made worse by the fact that Britt's hard-partying ways tend to land him on Page 2 every weekend. Britt seems to want to get in his father's good graces, but he still hasn't figured out how by the time James is found dead of an apparent bee sting. Ultimately, Britt finds himself comiserating with Kato (Jay Chou), his father's mysterious mechanic, who seems to have more running through his head than carburetors and cappucinos. Together, the two formulate a silly plan: go out at night armed with masks and a tricked-out 1966 Imperial Crown, pretending to cause crime while simultaneously stopping it, using the paper to promote their supposed villainy. Their actions get the attention of Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), who controls all the drug business in LA, and soon the two find themselves genuinely fighting for their lives.
The first third of Hornet whizzes by, giving Rogen and Chou plenty of time to build up great chemistry together. Rogen's character of Britt is, frankly, a bit of a spoiled ass, but his pure, unadulterated wonder at Kato's skills in both engineering and ass-kicking provides plenty of fuel for the film. Chou is also wonderfully charismatic, turning in a performance that should, if Hornet performs well at the box office, shoot him to US stardom. Some of the advertising makes the relationship between the two appear more strained or antagonistic, but the two are right on the same page in the final film in terms of tone and sense of humor.
Admittedly, the middle of the film is soft, in which Britt's abrasiveness reaches aggravating highs, especially in his interactions with Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), who joins The Daily Sentinel staff as his new secretary. His attempts to hit on her are outlandish and offensive, and they put an unnecessary rift in the bond between Britt and Kato. Although Britt is made out to be a ladies' man, a brief scene or two of his approach working on more vapid women or a less aggressively sleazy middle ground would go a long way towards tempering his pig-headedness. In return, a few of Chudnofsky's meandering scenes debating whether to deal with his increasing Green Hornet problem could probably hit the cutting room floor, as well as a bit of an overlong fight sequence between Britt and Kato.
Ultimately, though, even the slow segments are held together by director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), who proves himself a savvier choice for a big-budget director's chair than some of his previous efforts would indicate. While flashy sequences like "KatoVision" (you'll know 'em when you see 'em) have his fingerprints all over them, there are more subtle bits of Gondry-esque whimsy involving rolls of newsprint, half-cars, and glass elevators that those with eagle eyes will spot. The director also clearly filmed with the eventual 3D post-conversion in mind, even if no plans were in place; almost every shot contains a great sense of depth that the clever conversion (which doesn't "overwork" 3D out of insignificant background details) brings to vivid life. All in all, although Hornet lacks as many laugh-out-loud moments as Pineapple Express, it still packs a pleasurable punch with an inspired spin.
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