The Green Hornet

The adventures of newspaper heir Britt Reid and his valet Kato began in a 1936 radio series. There were two movie serials in 1940 and ’41, and of course the one year run in 1966 of the television show that featured Bruce Lee as Kato. None of these incarnations of the Green Hornet were particularly campy or even humorous. So now funnyman Seth Rogen takes control of the franchise and turns it into a comedy.

Every pulp and comic book hero has a fan base. Some are bigger than others and in those terms The Green Hornet is definitely second tier, although thanks to Bruce Lee, Kato will always be cool. If you’ve never seen the TV series, those fights were amazing. The Green Hornet faithful did make itself heard when Rogen took over the reins and announced his intentions. It turns out they were right to worry.

The comedic formula here is obvious and not terribly original. Bumbling but well-meaning rich man is constantly bailed out by his super competent aide. Batman meets Jeeves and Wooster. The problem is with Seth Rogen’s math. His Britt Reid is boorishly obnoxious and I had much more sympathy for the villain, Chudnofsky, played by Christoph Waltz, who’s very low-key and worried that people aren’t scared enough of him. When Kato, played by Jay Chou gets fired, I wanted to tell him, “You’re much better off, you know.”

This movie is a mess in other ways as well. The action scenes are loud and confusing, with very little in the way of suspense. There’s this thing they do in Kato’s fights where they show a series of darkened still images from his viewpoint with certain objects highlighted in red. Then when action starts, he employs the highlighted objects to beat up the bad guys. It completely disrupts the flow of the action and was a bad idea. The fight scenes are shot mostly in close-ups and are so tightly edited, it’s hard to figure out what’s happening.

I liked the old TV show but I’m not really a rabid fan of the Hornet, so I don’t feel like this movie is blasphemous. It’s just a little disappointing when an opportunity for coolness is missed.

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