Before The Green Hornet, Seth Rogen was on one of the best rolls in Hollywood. Other than a couple of cameos in bad movies (Fanboys, You, Me and Dupree), all of his movie choices were, at the worst, decent.
This isn't to say The Green Hornet is altogether bad. It just isn't very good.
This is quite the shock, considering that Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) directs, and Rogen tackles the screenplay with writing-partner Evan Goldberg. The duo did much for the stoner genre with Pineapple Express, concocting a hilarious, trippy action comedy, but their humorous approach doesn't quite befit Hornet. The movie just sort of sits there, producing only sporadic laughs to go with its often-sloppy action sequences.
A mighty slim (for him) Rogen plays Britt Reid, the spoiled-brat son of multimillionaire newspaperman James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). James pushes his son hard to make something of himself—perhaps a little too hard, which understandably gives Britt a bit of a complex. When his dad dies of mysterious circumstances, Britt inherits his empire and becomes overwhelmed with the need to do something with his life.
Enter Kato (Jay Chou), his father's mechanic and the maker of fine coffee at the estate. It also turns out that Kato is a genius who can make super-powered cars and espresso machines. The two set out on a mission of vandalism that sprouts into something else, eventually leading Britt to become the Green Hornet. Kato joins him as they fight crime, in often-boring fashion.
One of the key problems with the film is a generally uninteresting villain in Chudnofsky, played by Oscar winner Christoph Waltz. While Waltz does manage a creepy-funny scene or two (especially one featuring a James Franco cameo), he never poses an interesting threat to the crime duo.
While I truly like Rogen, there were times in this film when I just wanted him to shut up. It seems that he and Gondry thought that in order to play a comic hero, Rogen had to ramp up his shtick in both speed and volume. As a result, he seems woefully out of place, as if he doesn't know whether he is in a comedy or a straight-up comic-book pic. Somebody needed to walk up to Rogen, put his hand on his shoulder and politely ask him to calm his shit down.
As for Chou, I would've preferred his dialogue to be in Chinese with subtitles. There were many moments when I didn't have any idea what he was saying. He has the makings of a good actor, but his current command of the English language does not yet fit a large supporting role in an American movie. Maybe he'll be there in a couple of years, but not yet.
Cameron Diaz shows up relatively deep into the film as Lenore Case, hired as Britt's assistant at the newspaper; she becomes an unknowing strategist for Britt and Kato on their missions. She has the ability to predict what will happen to the Green Hornet and Kato, and where crime will heat up next, or something like that. Her character is ridiculously written.
Some of the action sequences have a little zip and show the visual aptitude Gondry has displayed in the past. If you catch the film in 3-D (yep, this is another subpar 3-D offering), there are a couple of moments when the film properly utilizes the technology. But for the most part, the visuals are flat.
Any actor will roll a gutterball every now and then. As gutterballs go, The Green Hornet isn't a disaster. Considering the amount of work that obviously went into it, the film certainly qualifies as an artistic disappointment. Neither triumphant nor disastrous, The Green Hornet is a little speed bump in Rogen's stellar career. Comic-book movies are apparently not his bag.