At the Movies: The Green Hornet

2011 should be a big year for superhero movies — at least compared to last year — and the first one out of the gate is “The Green Hornet.”

Let’s hope they get better as the year progresses.

It’s not that “Green Hornet” is a bad film. It’s perfectly average. And really, what more can you expect from a movie about The Green Hornet? I doubt he ranks that high on anyone’s list of pop culture icons.

According to Wikipedia (because honestly, I’m not that up on my Green Hornet lore), the Hornet began life in a radio serial way back in the 1930s. He went on to star in other media, most notably a short-lived TV series in the 1960s that was basically a rip-off of the Batman television series of the same era.

The Green Hornet has two claims to fame:

1. His jazzy theme song, “Flight of the Bumblebee,” with its memorable trumpet performance by Al Hirt.

2. Martial arts star Bruce Lee played the Hornet’s sidekick Kato in the TV series.

You’ll note neither of those claims-to-fame have anything to do with the Hornet himself. He’s just not that special.

But hey, anything gets turned into a feature film eventually and now it’s the Hornet’s turn.

Seth Rogan stars as Britt Reid, the spoiled, playboy son of newspaper publisher James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). Britt is lazy, self-centered, slothful — your basic Seth Rogan character.

When father dies from an allergic reaction to a bee sting (not radioactive), Britt becomes head of “The Daily Sentinel.” Britt’s not really interested in running a newspaper so he goes back to the family mansion, fires the staff for no reason, and goes to bed.

The next day he realizes he’s made a terrible mistake when his coffee isn’t as delicious as he’s used to. It turns out the coffee was brewed by a special device built by genius coffee-machine maker, mechanic and kung fu expert Kato (Jay Chou). Britt hires Kato back and, after drinking all day, decides to go out and do something stupid. After defacing a statue they interrupt a crime and wind up chased by the police.

The next day Britt decides he had so much fun the night before that he and Kato should become superheroes. But then he decides they should pretend to be villains for reasons that — well, does any of this make sense, really? Cameron Diaz is brought in so the story can have a pretty woman and Christoph Waltz plays the villain of the piece.

Directed by Michael Godry, “The Green Hornet” isn’t as funny as it wants to be nor as exciting as it ought to be. This is more a comedy than an action adventure and your enjoyment of it will probably depend greatly on how much you enjoy Seth Rogan’s lovable schmuck act. His version of Britt Reid isn’t very likable — he’s mostly a slovenly jerk — but he has a good heart underneath. I kinda expect more from my superheroes.

The action bits are OK but by the end it all devolves into a big cacophony of ridiculous stunts, gunfire and explosions. The movie is available in 3D but save your money — this is not great 3D.

Did it work for me? Meh.

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