Flight of the bumbling B-movie

LET’S ROLL, KATO  |  A PG-13 Seth Rogen, far left, is as toothless as his incompetent ‘super- hero’ Britt Reid — it’s Kato (Jay Chou) who does all the work.

Rogen’s soft, muddled ‘Green Hornet’ is a noisy mess of 3-D nonsense

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  |  Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

The first question you have to ask yourself before going to see The Green Hornet is: “Do I really want to see a Seth Rogen movie that’s rated PG-13 instead of R?” (Actually, the first question is, “Do I want to see a Seth Rogen movie, period.”) Let’s face it: Rogen’s style — cultivated in Superbad, Knocked Up and Pineapple Express — is of the joint-toking, foul-mouthed slacker. It’s not even fair to call it “frat boy” humor, as Rogen exudes the air of someone who never even took the SAT, not to mention applied to college. Nope, if Seth doesn’t get to say “fuck” or “pussy” every eighth word, there’s really not much to keep you interested. And even then…

While his script for The Green Hornet shows familiarity with its source material, it doesn’t know how to update it in any way that makes for a competent movie. Britt Reid (Rogen) is the roustabout son of a newspaper magnate; when daddy dies, Britt inherits the publisher’s job and dad’s driver, a martial artist-auto mechanic-techno wizard-barista savant called Kato (Jay Chou). They come up with a cockamamie plan to become superheroes who pose as villains. Only Britt has no heroic skills: No speed or brains or bravery or strength. It’s the Kato show, and he takes all the credit.

That might actually be a good movie — the sidekick does all the work and gets none of the credit, a la Wallace & Gromit — but Rogen and director Michel Gondry are afraid to go full-tilt that way. Instead, they clutter the film with comic bits (half of which fall flat) and 3-D effects (whose cheesiness distracts from the action more than intensifying it).

Maybe — maybe — if the action sequences weren’t edited with buzzsaw freneticism and Gondry hadn’t devolved into fast-motion scenes that looked lame in noisy farces back in the 1960s, we could appreciate more his bravura split-screen montage (a dazzling bit of flamboyance) and the performance of Christoph Waltz (the best scene in the film is one with Waltz doing a cameo with James Franco). But Gondry has a skewed take on Americana — low-brow and filtered through pretentious European sensibilities — and the result here is as clumsy and unpredictable as Rogen’s perpetually fluctuating girth.

The Green Hornet’s release was long delayed, reportedly to work out the 3-D effects, but what they really needed to do was work on the screenplay: Ditch the extraneous Cameron Diaz as a love interest and explore more the suggested homoerotic longings between Britt and Kato. That could give the phrase “getting stung by the Green Hornet” a whole new meaning — and a lot more comic momentum.

This appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright

A note on gay Pride — in and out of the community

I had an annoying conversation this morning.

A publicist for a troupe we (let’s put it this way) “recently profiled” called to ask for a change online to the story: Seems like we referred in the headline to the person we interviewed as “gay.” She wanted it removed.

“I’m sorry — is that not true?” I asked.

“No, it’s true. He’s gay.  He would just prefer you not mention it.”

The conversation continued like this for a long time.

Now, I’m happy to correct errors, especially ones caused by us. But this person was pitched to me as the “gay head of this troupe,” and I assigned the story accordingly. If he had not been gay … well, let’s just say the troupe was not on my radar enough such that I would have been all that interested in the story without a hook, an angle. That was his.

Part of the mission of this newspaper is to draw our readers (many of whom are straight) to what’s going on in and by the gay community. Sometimes it’s homophobes attacking us and our rights. Sometimes it’s our allies who embrace us for who we are and treat up as equals. Sometimes it’s just celebrities who have an interesting perspective on their gay fans. Sometimes it’s openly gay people who are victimized by bigots, or leaders who step up to improve the lot of the community.

But a lot of the time, it’s just ordinary gay folks doing something out in the world we think people might want to know about. A trans woman who continues to be a personal trainer. A musician who wants to save the Great American Songbook. An auto mechanic who runs a garage and offers his gay clientele a friendly environment. An actor who steals the show in a national tour of a terrible musical. A museum curator who brings his unique perspective to a major art museum. Maybe being gay doesn’t directly affect what they do too much. But maybe it does. And it’s good to have a sense of pride knowing the vast landscape of opportunities out there — and that being openly gay, bi or trans is not a hindrance to success.

So when someone who is gay — and claims to be out — asks me to hide that fact … well, it angers me. You don’t need to do an interview with me. You don’t need to discuss your sexuality if you do agree to the interview. You don’t even need to be gay for me to write about you. But don’t come to me with the pitch that our readers might be interested in reading about you and then leap back in the closet. Because there are a lot of people out there proud to be called gay. I’m one of them.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones