Monday, January 17, 2011

Squalor: The Green Hornet

Love & Squalor regulars know that despite my snootier moments there are some poorly rated movies that I'll defend, buy for $5 at Target, and watch when doing the laundry, getting into bed, or just because. Michael Gondry’s The Green Hornet could have gone either way; either quality mind-blowing superhero excellence, or B-Movie guilty pleasure, so bad its good etc, etc. But it didn’t. It’s such a mess that only a few moments of joy can be sifted from the carnage of the script, Rogen’s performance, and the lumbering pacing that despite all the action, never seems to go anywhere.
The Green Hornet’s plot follows the formula of every super hero movie. The spoiled rich brat Brit Reid (Seth Rogen) loses his parents, inherits the family empire, gains a heart, and with the help of smarter sidekick Kato (Jay Chou) and a solid bankroll, beats the bad guys. Hornet takes things a step further, as Reid determines that it would be safer and more beneficial for the duo if they pretended to be on the wrong side of the law (let's remember that neither has a family or girlfriend to worry about), and end up in a gang war with Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), the aging gangster who fears he’s losing his touch. This tired superhero plot might be dated on a typical blockbuster, but in this case it’s welcomed, as the film gets so jumbled up and bogged down that the formula at least provides a roadmap for the audience to follow.
It’s not that the plot is all that off course, but a combination of the nearly unbearable script (penned by Rogen and Superbad/Ali G alum Evan Goldberg) and Rogen’s performance leave you wondering when something would finally happen. The script consists mainly of Reid repeating inane statements about what he might do until five minutes later, the scene finally moves on. Funny lines are non-existent as most of the comedy comes from the slapstick involving the Hornet car or Kato. Much of the first half of the film is devoted to developing Reid’s character without success as the camera follows Rogen as he wanders around complaining about coffee and making out with girls on top of every one of his father’s cars. There are a bunch of lectures about his behavior, but very little from Rogen that’s convincing or charming, more dunce than debonair.
Rogen’s Reid is not much different from his usual role as the Apatow man-child, which isn’t necessarily that bad, until the bafflingly devoid script is parroted through him leaving no laughs, only awkward grimaces. Reid has no character arc or development, his final change of heart short lived and entirely out of left field. He makes repeated unfunny and bumbling mistakes that the rest of the characters seem to merely accept, that without the bolstering of comedy becomes unbelievable and annoying. When Kato finally seems to come to his senses and dump the unapologetic Reid, the drama is totally meaningless as anyone in their right mind wouldn’t have stayed nearly that long. If Kato is really going to let himself be this bogged down by that idiot, than maybe we should see him overcoming those issues in therapy in the sequel. And when it comes to making a good story, there is a workable formula here. Watson stayed with Sherlock because despite his drug addicted, annoying ass, Sherlock was actually a great detective. If you’re playing the stony arrogance card, then you have to make something redeemable about your character or at least make his ridiculous behavior funny. Even veteran Waltz’s villain is sadly lacking any threat or laughs, and further drags the film down. I could say something about Cameron Diaz or Edward James Olmos, but really, there isn’t anything to say.
Luckily for Gondry, Jay Chou’s Kato has enough humanity and martial arts talent to briefly distract the audience, particularly towards the end of the film when his mad genius runs free. The Black Beauty, or hornet getaway car is admittedly totally cool, and watching Kato come up with a new way to unleash total mayhem is great (The Black Beauty is the most interesting and well-developed character in the entire film). But once Chou disappears from screen and the green headlights go down on the Beauty, it’s impossible not to escape the sinking feeling of boredom when the characters get back to talking (if that’s what you’d call it).

It could be perhaps that Gondry's shoes were too tight, or maybe that Rogen's head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could be perhaps that Sony/Columbia's reported insistence on rewriting the script and reshooting the movie to cut out the camp left merely a shell, or maybe when director Steven Chow left the project it was impossible for anyone to resurrect his vision. But regardless of who’s responsible, The Green Hornet is a sore disappointment that will bore even the most non-discriminating of action and bad movie connoisseurs.

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