If there's one lesson to be learned from The Green Hornet, it's that superhero movies and comic book movies are not one in the same. Michel Gondry's latest film, about a spoiled twenty-something who starts fighting crime for fun, doesn't boast the typical spandex suits or cartoonish villains. It's a comedy first and an action film second, and while it delivers copious laughs and impressive fight sequences, the finished product is missing a crucial comic book element: the kapow! factor.
The film opens on Britt Reid, a pudgy adolescent with a love and respect for superheroes. The carefree image of Britt playing with his action figure comes quickly vanishes when his father, the wealthy editor-in-chief of the respected Daily Sentinel newspaper, berates Britt for getting into a tussle with school bullies and calls him a failure. Fast forward twenty years later, and Britt (Seth Rogen) has grown into his father's image of his son: a spoiled, trust fund party boy who spends his time drinking, skirt chasing, and slacking off. That is, until his father dies in a freak accident, and Britt is finally forced to change his life.
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It may sound like a coming-of-age story, but Britt never actually grows up. Instead, he bonds with his father's servant Kato (Jay Chou), a mechanical genius with killer martial arts intuition and a knack for making lattes. With access to Kato's fighting skills and ability to turn a car into a killing machine, Britt comes up with the idea that he and Kato should become a crime fighting team. Bearing a mask and the name Green Hornet, Britt quickly lands in hot water as he and Kato go out searching for trouble.
Kato is more than just the mastermind behind the Green Hornet's power; he's also the glue that holds the whole film together. Britt's one-liners and buffoonery are even funnier paired with Kato's comebacks and prowess, and as a unit, the two become a sometimes bumbling, sometimes unstoppable force to be reckoned with. The heart and soul of the film lie in Kato and Britt's teamwork, and though Rogen and Chou make for a perfectly hilarious odd couple, their banter casts a shadow over the other characters in the film.
Christoph Waltz's talent is mostly wasted as the local crime boss in the midst of an identity crisis. Though Gondry does his best to give Waltz a personality, he doesn't have nearly enough screen time to be remembered as an evil villain. The same can be said for Cameron Diaz as Britt's secretary and love interest, Lenore. She's used as a catalyst to keep the plot moving, but overall her character is underdeveloped.
It's not that the script for The Green Hornet isn't smart; the film has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and subtle jabs. The problem is that as a screenwriter, Rogen is more focused on the buddy-buddy relationship between Kato and Britt when the film would have benefited from a more fluid plot and developed adventure for our heroes to embark on. In the end, Rogen proves that he can still makes us laugh, but doesn't convince us that he can save the day.