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Seth Rogen and Jay Chou star in The Green Hornet as a crime-fighting duo.
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★★✩✩✩

The Green Hornet

Directed by Michel Gondry

Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz

Rated PG-13, now playing

I’m not a superhero buff, but I could tell that The Dark Knight and Iron Man were great superhero flicks. The Green Hornet, directed by Michel Gondry (of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame, and once an Artist-in-Residence at MIT) and starring Seth Rogen and Jay Chou was not a great superhero flick. It wasn’t even a good superhero flick. It promised an exciting and witty blend of comedy and action, but failed to deliver either in significant amounts. One or two chuckles and a mildly entertaining final action scene couldn’t make up for another hour of vapid dialogue, lackluster 3D, and a general sense of “what’s going on here?”

The film follows the exploits of Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), son of an L.A. newspaper magnate, and his sidekick Kato (Jay Chou), a cool and brilliant ninja-mechanic. Together, Reid and Kato concoct the “Green Hornet” persona — a superhero team which masquerades as villains. The duo drive around in a souped-up Chrysler Imperial and cause general mayhem in the city, but only seriously target the criminal operation of local crime lord Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). Cameron Diaz plays Reid’s overqualified secretary, and doubles as a very poorly-developed romantic interest for both Reid and Kato.

What makes The Green Hornet so disappointing is that it has all the elements to make a fun film, but it simply doesn’t turn out that way. Rogen’s one-liners, funny in the movie trailer, fall completely flat in the movie — they crop up in the wrong places at the wrong times. Rogen’s fratboy antics sometimes clash humorously with Chou’s calm and cool demeanor, but it just doesn’t make up for a film that’s trying way too hard to be funny. Attempts to draw some comic relief from the villain are especially cringeworthy — the serious and gritty Chudnofsky hatches a scheme to “rebrand” himself as a scarier, more intimidating “Bloodnofsky.” Sounds stupid? That’s because it is.

If the movie couldn’t pull off compelling humor, could it at least be a decent action-thriller? Not really. Admittedly, it was cool to watch Jay Chou’s character kick serious ass in some early scenes, but Rogen’s bumbling, flailing, and screaming got really annoying really fast. Better if they had just left him out of the fight scenes entirely. In the movie’s defense, a climactic battle between Chudnofsky’s forces and the Green Hornet team across the streets of L.A. was pretty fun, and the 3D was a welcome touch — but only in the context of a fierce gun-and-martial-arts brawl. Otherwise, the effect only served to darken the screen and make cars and buildings look unusually small.

Of all the characters in the film, Kato’s was the most likeable. Chou pulled off the “calm in the face of mortal danger” element well, and his humble genius contrasted well with Reid’s arrogant idiocy. There’s not much to say about Diaz’s character. She helped push the plot along and was there so we could point and laugh at Reid’s boorish character not being able to get the girl.

Disappointingly, Rogen’s character got the most screen time but probably deserved the least. He’s easy to hate from the beginning of the film to the end, but not in a fun or endearing kind of way. He’s just an irritating, stupid jerk — to the other characters in the film and to the audience.

The Green Hornet could have been a refreshing take on the superhero-reboot genre. Where humor, action, and super-heroism could have been combined in an enticing way, neither the sum nor the individual parts are any good. The occasional respite from awkward attempts at comedy come in the form of Jay Chou and a decently executed final showdown. At least the car was wicked cool.