“GREEN HORNET” PACKS NO STING

“With his faithful valet Kato, Britt Reid, daring young publisher, matches wits with the Underworld, risking his life so that criminals and racketeers within the law may feel its weight by the sting of the Green Hornet!”

Way back on Jan. 31, 1936, “The Green Hornet” made its debut on WXYZ radio in Detroit, and, it remained on the airwaves intermittently until 1952. The legendary Fran Striker, who also gave us “The Lone Ranger” and “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon,” created the series. The famous comic book character also had his own TV show during the 1966-67 season with Van Williams in the dual roles of Britt Reid and the Green Hornet and marital arts icon Bruce Lee playing Kato.

Although the Green Hornet also was the subject of several serials throughout the years, he never was featured in a major motion picture until this year. Sadly, “The Green Hornet,” starring Seth Rogen and Jay Chou may well have a dubious place in history as one of the worst films ever made based upon a comic book character. With its embarrassingly juvenile humor, this film may appeal only to those with the IQ of a third grader, and some in that age group may even find it too insultingly stupid for their taste.

As the film opens, young Britt Reid is cruelly disciplined by his father (Tom Wilkenson) for attempting to break up a fight at school. Mr. Reid is a newspaper magnate, and he is all about himself as we see when the film skips ahead some 20 years and we find Britt (Rogen) living it up as a Los Angeles playboy much to the disgust and chagrin of his father.

But Britt’s life changes abruptly after his father dies, leaving his non-grieving son the vast newspaper empire. Through a series of events too boring and tedious to mention here, Britt meets his former father’s genius mechanic Kato (Chou), and the two of them become the crime-fighting vigilantes known as the Green Hornet and Kato.

They drive around in a car called the Black Beauty, which was built by Kato and which features a number of gadgets including twirling blades that emerge from the wheels ala the villain’s chariot in “Ben Hur.” In addition to the car, the best weapon the duo has is Kato, who is a martial arts expert and whom Britt perceptively dubs “a human Swiss Army knife.”

The only thing that makes this film the least bit watchable is Chou’s consistently entertaining portrayal of Kato. His fight scenes are nicely choreographed, and his martial arts moves are awesome. One of the most entertaining scenes in the film is when Kato and Britt get into a fight except that I was hoping for Kato to put him out of commission so that the movie would be over.

Unfortunately, Rogen’s performance is every bit as bad as Chou’s is good. In fact his rendition of the Green Hornet rivals George Clooney’s pathetic portrayal of Batman. The Green Hornet is supposed to be a hero, not a whining buffoon, but that’s exactly what he is in this film. In the production notes, Rogen explained why he decided to write the film along with Evan Goldberg.

“We had always been comic book fans, superhero fans. For a long time we had been trying to write a movie about a hero and his sidekick. But nothing was quite right for us until we looked at the Green Hornet. Here was this famous character with a real legacy, but still a property that would allow us to put our own interpretation into the characters. It was like this project was tailor made for what Evan and I wanted to do — we could explore the relationship between Britt and Kato around the framework of this kickass action-comedy. It was perfect.”

Sorry Seth, but despite the idea’s being perfect, your pathetically inept performance ruined the whole damn movie. Nothing is worse than watching someone trying to be funny and failing miserably. Now perhaps Rogen was simply doing what the script and director called for him to do. But if this is the case, Rogen also is to blame because he helped write the screenplay.

Cameron Diaz plays Britt’s secretary, Lenore Case, and Britt’s repeated attempts to woo her make him look like a lovesick teen-ager instead of the alter ego of a superhero. Of course this just fits in beautifully with the rest of this mess of a movie.

The final 30 minutes of the film comprise an absolutely interminable chase filled with myriad explosions that become so boringly repetitious. In fact, by the time the film was finally over, I was hoping that the whole damn movie would implode and put me out of my misery.

In the production notes, Rogen made the following interesting point about the development of Kato throughout the series.

“Kato started out as a sidekick role, and, like a lot of sidekicks, he was just a sidekick. But then came the TV show, with Bruce Lee as Kato. He became an icon, and because of that, there’s a great love out there for the sidekick as well as the Green Hornet himself. People who come to see the movie want to see what happens to Kato, not just ‘the hero,’ the Green Hornet.”

As I said earlier, Kato is the only thing worth watching in this film, and he is the reason it earns a final score of three instead of a zero. Anyone who pays the full price of admission to see “The Green Hornet” will end up being severely stung.

 

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