Review by Kristen Heine

First of all, I have to admit that I have a bit of a schoolgirl crush on Christoph Waltz. Sure, he played a murderous Nazi in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, but in, you know, a likable way. And while I’m also a fan of Seth Rogan, and the superhero genre, it was Waltz’s inclusion that tempted me into seeing The Green Hornet.

As with any new kid on the block, the comic book superhero has to begin with an origins story. We see Brit Reid (the adult version played by Rogan) as the do-nothing son of a wealthy media mogul (Tom Wilkinson). Brit spends his nights destroying a variety of hotel suites and clubs, while scores of pretty model-types dangle drunkenly from his arms. Queue: Wilkinson and his sole purpose in the film—a lot of scowling and fatherly disappointment.

Once James Reid (Wilkinson) meets a sudden end, Brit finds himself in charge of his father’s estate and news empire. In other superhero flicks—Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man—this is roughly where the main character realizes his purpose in life and decides to become the man that his father had always hoped for. In The Green Hornet, not so much.

Brit decides that his father was as horrible as he’d always thought him to be, and uses the death as an excuse to act even more entitled and obnoxious than before. Somehow this leads us to who turns out to be the only truly likable character in the film, Kato (Jay Chou). Kato is polite, possesses genius level intelligence, has a pretty good sense of humor, and makes really cool gadgets.

Armed with his new sidekick, Brit decides to fight the crime that’s been overtaking Los Angeles. Except, not really. He decides to vandalize his father’s memorial, and accidentally wanders across a more serious crime-in-progress, one which Kato ends up thwarting.

The next bit of the film—the superhero-in-the-making part—is a bit muddled and too quickly paced. Director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) may know how to masterfully handle boy-meets-girl stories, but his whimsy doesn’t translate well to action films. The audience is left confused as to why these two would ever want to be crime fighters at all or how they’ve gone about achieving it.

Cameron Diaz also pops up at this point, playing Reid’s new secretary. You’d think that this genre would be a good fit with Diaz’s personality, as she’s a staple in both comedy and action films, but she never seems to find her footing. Much of this may be due to Rogan’s writing—while he’s brilliant at stoner bromances, strong female characters don’t seem to be his forte.

The rest of the film just kind of, happens. Waltz’s villain, Chudnofsky, is one-dimensional, with the story written in such a way that he’s almost unnecessary. It’s hard to blame Waltz for the failings of the character—he’s really not given anything to work with, and also must have been told that his own Austrian accent would work just fine for the Russian gangster that he plays. It’s disappointing, but considering the tone of the rest of the movie, not really surprising.

The audience gets treated to a few drawn-out and highly implausible action sequences here and there (see: not credible even in a superhero story), some pretty predictable plot twists occur, and at the end, most of the characters unfortunately end up right about where they started: spoiled and self-absorbed.

© Kristen Heine, 2011