The Green Hornet franchise has a long history, starting out as a radio program in the 1930s and reaching its zenith with a 26-episode series in the late 1960s. Given its background, and with the usually inventive Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) at the helm, 2011’s The Green Hornet could have been an offbeat homage.
But it was not to be.
Britt Reid (Rogen) is the playboy son of a newspaper owner whose life consists of parties and waking up with a different woman each day. When his father dies after an allergic reaction to a bee sting, he half-heartedly attempts to take over the paper. Britt meets his father’s mechanic and barista Kato (Chou), and while defacing a memorial to the deceased Reid, they discover their potential to be heroes. Heroes who—for reasons poorly explained—pose as villains.
Hornet’s reboot route was meant to build on its action-packed source material, but it veers off in an unimaginably dull direction. The vast majority of the film is a futile exercise in character development and attempted humor; 90 minutes of dialogue that is infinitely less entertaining than a single shot of Kato punching in a cabinet door.
Seth Rogen’s Britt Reid is, for the most part, a pompous buffoon who gives you little reason to identify with him. If anything, you end up feeling more for the film’s villain Chudnofsky (Waltz, who probably regrets taking up the part). On the other hand, Jay Chou is surprisingly likeable in his attempt to fill Bruce Lee’s shoes as Kato and he takes center stage in Hornet’s scarce but outlandish fight scenes. This, as with the original series, should really be called The Kato Show.
The film ultimately disappoints because it couldn’t really do anything with its franchise. It lacks a distinctive soundtrack, offers few genuine laughs, has no reason to be in 3D and neglects a rare opportunity for an Asian actor to have an element of romance in his role (involving an aging Cameron Diaz).
Albeit too late, Hornet does come together in the carnage of its final quarter. It’s almost worth the wait, but if you’re short on endurance, you might want to show up for the movie about half-an-hour before it ends.