Monday, January 17, 2011

Bad Buzz

The Green Hornet is a towering example of what happens to a movie when you make bad choices. I don't know who made the various decisions that took this movie's perfectly decent concept of a vigilante pretending to be a criminal and drove it off a cliff. Maybe is was Seth Rogen and his longtime writing partner Evan Goldberg. Maybe it was director Michel Gondry. Maybe it was nameless studio executives who wanted a blend of goofy comedy and superhero action and ended up with neither. I'm guessing they all bear some responsibility but it has the feel of nameless money men who don't let the fact that they have no idea how to make a decent movie stop them from interfering with they who do.

When the movie first started, I thought maybe the poor reviews were wrong and that Green Hornet might turn out to be enjoyable. Christoph Waltz, recently one of the most deserving winners in Oscar history for his win in the Best Supporting Actor category, plays Chudnofsky, a name that makes me grateful I can cut and paste stuff from IMDB. Chudnofsky is a ruthless gangster who suffers from self-esteem problems. A rival (an uncredited Jmes Franco) dresses him down for his age as well as his lack of charisma and menacing presence. The "menacing presence" problem is quickly rectified when Chudnofsky single-handedly kills everyone in the room yet the now dead rival's words haunt him throughout the rest of the movie. This opening scene as well as the character of Chudnofsky are great. I wish I had had a massive heart attack during the opening scene so I wouldn't have had to witness a movie that failed to live up to it.

As I said, it was a monumentally bad choice to make the Green Hornet into the typical Seth Rogen character. You know what I mean. Slacker, a bit dumb and generally incompetent at whatever he tries to do in life. Normally, he'd be bad at getting women too but in this case he's heir to a large fortune, a fact that easily makes beautiful young women think that his privates should be in their mouths. Rogen's character, Britt Reid, has spent his life being a disappointment to, and living in the shadow of, his father, a man who is both a prestigious newspaper publisher and kind of a dick. This causes mixed feelings when his father dies from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. This causes Britt to reevaluate his life and that is when he meets Kato (Chinese action star Jay Chou). Or rather, that is when he notices Kato as Kato has worked for years on his father's estate but Britt isn't the kind of guy who pays attention to employees. Kato, it turns out, is a genius inventor, skilled engineer and a master of martial arts. Kato should have been the hero of the film with Britt acting as his financial sponsor but, unfortunately, Britt insists on tagging along as they begin careers as masked vigilantes who pretend to be criminals in order to infiltrate the underworld.

That previous paragraph lays out a very nice premise for what could have been an entertaining movie. Sadly, as I said, they made bad choices. For instance, Britt Reid is not only a typical Seth Rogen character but he's also one of the hate inspiring main characters I've seen in a long time. Seth Rogen has played an asshole in the past but he's balanced it out with funny jokes and his personal charisma and made you end up rooting for those awful people he's played. It didn't work this time, though. The funny jokes didn't come often enough though the unfunny ones did and he kept hateful things ranging from mistreating Kato to hiring Cameron Diaz as his assistant and treating her in such a way that the characters from Mad Men would have chastised him for his misogyny and sexual harassment. On the plus side, I've already mentioned Waltz, Jay Chou's fight scenes were good and the ending was crazy as the Hornet and Kato literally drive their car up an elevator to the top floor of a building.

As I said, I don't know who to blame. Rogen and Gondry have written, starred in and directed better movies than this so what happened here? I don't know and it's not something I can do anything about so I won't worry about it. I feel bad for them if it wasn't their fault. If it was, may they be eaten by ants.

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