When I heard that Seth Rogen had co-written the script and was going to star in the costumed crime-fighter movie, The Green Hornet, I was a bit dubious. I like Rogen, but it seemed like an odd pairing of man and material. I hoped that I was wrong and that Rogen would come up with a cool, funny movie. He didn’t.
Seth Rogen is the luckiest guy on the planet. I don’t mean that he hasn’t worked hard for his success and that he isn’t a very, very funny guy; he is. It’s just that when he isn’t voicing an alien, or kung-fu animal, or idiot monster, he basically makes millions of dollars acting like what is clearly a version of himself onscreen. You never get the feeling he’s acting like someone else, just that he’s himself, making up the dialogue as he goes along.
This is, of course, the main problem with Rogen being the lead in The Green Hornet. He doesn’t seem like millionaire newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who becomes a masked crime fighter along with his sidekick, Kato (Jay Chou). He seems like Seth Rogen putting on a mask and wisecracking while the insanely more competent Kato does the actual crime fighting. Co-writers Rogen and Evan Goldberg try to put a spin on the action hero by drenching it in Rogen’s comedic syrup, but it’s already been done better in Iron Man, and the movie isn’t funny enough to ignore the many other problems.
I have to give credit to Rogen and Goldberg (who double as executive producers) in that they go for the unconventional in almost every respect. Not only is schlubby, although admittedly in decent shape, Rogen cast as Reid/Green Hornet, Michel Gondry (Be Kind, Rewind) directs despite having no history of any sort of action movie. He actually does well with the action scenes, and his use of “Kato-vision” when Kato goes into kung-fu mode is clever. Of course, when that isn’t happening, which is 95% of the movie, Gondry doesn’t seem able to weave a coherent, enjoyable, fast-moving action-comedy out of Rogen and Goldberg’s script and the work of his leads.
Again, the leads move towards the unexpected. Rogen is the most glaring example, but it doesn’t end there. As Kato, Taiwanese singing star Chou is not incomprehensible, but he is hard to understand. This hurts the bro-mance heart of the story, since a great deal (too much, frankly) of the movie is taken up with the relationship between Reid and Kato. Of course, the relationship between the two crime fighters, despite its weak execution, looks like Gone With the Wind compared to the supposed spark between either actor and the character of Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz). Diaz is window dressing and doesn’t bring anything other than leer material for Rogen.
The only odd decision that really works is Christoph Waltz as the villain, Chudnofsky. It’s not odd that he’s a villain -- that's what he does -- but playing him as an insecure oddball is very funny. I’d much rather watch a movie about Chudnofsky building up his empire than a sequel to this weak crime-fighting film.
I admire Rogen’s willingness to take a chance, and I’m sure worldwide his effort made tons of dough [Around $227 million - Ed.]. It’s just not that good and takes too long to not be very good. Hopefully, this will be the beginning and the end of The Green Hornet franchise.
Frankly, if you are going to go to the trouble to get The Green Hornet on DVD, you’ll probably get the Blu-ray. I mean, why not? It’s an action movie, so go ahead and get the best format for an action movie. If you’re stuck with the DVD (like me, for some reason), it’s, like the movie, mostly just ok.
There is no denying that Rogen, as I stated earlier, is a funny guy. He did not make a good movie here, but he can be hilarious. So, if you are going to sit through the film, go ahead and flip on the commentary track and listen to Rogen, Goldberg, Gondry, and producer Neal Moritz. Gondry is basically dead weight because he’s even more incomprehensible than Chou. Rogen even jokes that he’s going to “translate” when Gondry says anything, and even does it a few times. When he doesn’t, it’s impossible to understand Gondry through the heavy accent. Rogen, Goldberg, and Moritz are all informative, funny, and very honest for a major movie commentary. They talk about things that didn’t go exactly right and funny almost-casting (the story of how Nicholas Cage was almost the bad guy is particularly well told). It’s worth hearing.
The rest of the DVD extras are pretty “meh.” There is a seven-minute gag reel that includes the odd flub with some weird on-set hijinks, including Gondry trying to flip a pen into a cup and hearing what David Harbour is really saying in an election speech that is seen but not heard. There is also 10 minutes on writing The Green Hornet, showing Rogen and Goldberg discussing scenes and also being interviewed about the overall direction, tone, and plot of the movie. It’s actually a good idea to watch this featurette before the movie, as you can get a sense of what the duo was going for, even if they didn’t really achieve it.
The final extra is about the car, The Black Beauty. Or rather, the 30 cars that were used throughout filming. It’s interesting to see how the versions differ from each other based on what they are being used for. It’s clear that everyone is geeking out on the combination of technology and a classic car. Still, it’s odd that this and the writing featurette weren’t made part of a longer “making-of” featurette. Some of the actors, like everyone not named Rogen, kind of get the shaft in the extras department.
This is an okay disc if you are into the movie (which I pretty much wasn’t). It’s not impressive, but it does have enough extras to make it worthwhile. It does make you want to go back and rent the television show sometime and see Bruce Lee and Van Williams.