Seth Rogen takes the sting out of 'The Green Hornet'


January 17, 2011
  • Jay Chou, left, as Kato and Seth Rogen as Britt Reid aka The Green Hornet star in "The Green Hornet" in theaters now.
Jay Chou, left, as Kato and Seth Rogen as Britt Reid aka The Green Hornet star in "The Green Hornet" in theaters now.

Every now and then, some wannabe comedian will play a character that is "a superhero with the power to be super-annoying." Then they make an irritating sound and look for approval from the audience, who either frown or boo. Now comes "The Green Hornet," a film that asks you to spend $8.50 and waste two hours of your time watching Seth Rogen play a superhero with the power to be super-annoying.  

Rogen plays Britt Reid, a lazy millionaire playboy who inherits a newspaper empire after his father's mysterious death. He fires all his father's household servants, but invites back Kato (Jay Chou) because Britt doesn't know how to work the coffee machine himself. It turns out that Kato can make all kinds of gadgets and has all sorts of talents. Britt befriends Kato because of all Kato can do for him.  

Britt and Kato go out for masked vandalism spree. Shortly after they cut the head off of Britt's father's memorial statue, Britt notices a group of muggers attacking a woman. He starts threatening them, hoping to scare them off, but they chase after him. The spoiled slob can't fight them off, but Kato beats them all up with ease (the man has talents). Britt likes superheroes and thinks that with his personality and Kato's ability, the two will be an unstoppable duo. Kato, of course, knows that Britt's personality adds nothing, but goes along with the idea anyway.  

Always one to draw attention to himself, Britt insists that his paper cover all the exploits of the charismatic new figure known as the Green Hornet. This attracts the attention of crime boss Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), whose own charisma has been in question lately. Smaller criminals aren't scared of him when he comes to demand a piece of their action. They look at his grey beard and think he looks like a "before" model for Just For Men. They don't even pronounce his name correctly. Sure, they take him seriously when he blows them to smithereens, but it isn't the same as commanding respect. And now the green goofball is getting all the headlines. He demands a meeting with the Green Hornet and his anonymous sidekick. This puts the heroes in Chudnofsky's sight, but it also puts Chudnofsky in Kato's sight.  

The Green Hornet writes checks with his mouth and Kato cashes them, at least that's how Britt sees it. He thinks he's being fearless by drawing the bad guys out into the open. But he's really just putting his natural ability to be annoying to slightly better use. Kato still does all the work even if he is about as charismatic as Chudnofsky. He becomes increasingly frustrated trying to get Britt to grasp that concept

But Britt continues to talk down to Kato, ordering him to get coffee and so forth. Britt even keeps Kato from enjoying the company of his beautiful new assistant (Cameron Diaz). The two come to blows and a surprisingly even-sided fight ensues. Britt is at no point a good fighter, because that would require him to have some kind of talent. The difference is that Kato has to spend an extra split second thinking of a way to send Britt a message without doing permanent damage, a problem he doesn't have with disposable villains. Britt thinks he's just improving.  

None of this is to say that the film isn't impressive visually. Director Michel Gondry has lots of tricks up his sleeve, my favorite being a multiple split-screen sequence where suspected Green Hornets are hunted down.  Nor am I saying that Seth Rogen isn't funny. He got a few hearty laughs out of me and he's about as good an actor as any to cast as the delusional lump that is Britt Reid. The problem is that super-annoying delusional lumps don't make good superheroes and therefore "The Green Hornet" doesn't make a good superhero movie.  

Two stars out of five.  

"The Green Hornet" is rated PG-13 for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality, and drug content.  Its running time is 120 minutes.

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