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

Movie Monday: ‘The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest’

‘Hornet’s Nest,’ the final film in the Millennium Trilogy, is a talky, gloomy affair

If you haven’t read one of Stieg Larsson’s books in the Millennium Trilogy, centered on a bisexual, semi-autistic, tattooed Swedish computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), you’ve missed the literary event of the decade. Since they emerged, Larsson’s books have sold better worldwide than John Grisham and Stephen King.

If you haven’t seen one of the film versions, however, you’re not so bad off. So far, the three films — The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and the latest, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest — have been, at best, moderately entertaining disappointments. All are Swedish-made (American versions start coming out next year), and while the stories don’t require a Hollywood gloss to be interesting, they could use some punching up as movies.

Director Daniel Alfredson has created a style that’s gloomy but without a sense of moodiness. From the photography to the pacing of the courtroom scenes to the unsatisfying final moments, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest more closely resembles an installment in a rambling made-for-TV miniseries than a punchy feature film. Where’s the crescendo, the heart-racing action, the “big reveal?” Even a thinking man’s thriller can try to get the blood boiling. (Rapace, who had a steamy lesbian sex scene in Played with Fire, doesn’t have any sex this time — a definite hole in the structure.)

Hornet’s Nest really doesn’t stand alone, at least not as well as the other two. It’s a direct sequel to the second film, with Lisbeth recovering from injuries after she fought off her father, a Russian gangster who survived her attack. If any of that confuses you, it’s not much clearer watching it onscreen.

For more about the film, click here.

DEETS: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest with Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist. Rated R. 145 minutes. Now playing at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station.

—  Rich Lopez