The guy who kicked the hornet’s nest

Seth Ro­gen makes for an off­beat crime­fighter in Michel Gondry’s off­beat pop­corn thriller, writes

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film reviews -

WHAT THE heck is this?

Cen­te­nar­i­ans will re­call that The Green Hornet (the char­ac­ter is a blood re­la­tion of the Lone Ranger, ap­par­ently) first emerged as a ra­dio se­ries dur­ing the in­ter-war era. Ap­pear­ing three years be­fore Bob Kane cre­ated Bat­man, the show fol­lowed a wealthy news­pa­per mag­nate who, un­der cover of dark­ness, fought crime while wear­ing a tiny green mask.

The fran­chise has popped up in other forms over the past 80 years. There have been comics, books and cheap films. But the last time it reg­is­tered with the nerdi­sphere was in the 1960s, when a TV se­ries, star­ring a young Bruce Lee as Kato, the hero’s side­kick, be­came a mod­est hit in the US. There is, thus, hardly a nat­u­ral con­stituency for this be­lated re­tread.

Fur­ther con­fu­sion is stirred by the in­tel­li­gence that Michel Gondry has got hold of the mega­phone. A wil­fully weird (and prodi­giously gifted) art-house di­rec­tor, Gondry is the odd­est choice to di­rect a su­per­hero adap­ta­tion since Ang Lee took on Hulk. Then there’s the news that Seth Ro­gen is writ­ing and star­ring. What now? The scruffy star of Judd Apa­tow’s misog­y­nis­tic lad flicks? Wasn’t Kevin James avail­able? What the heck is this?

Well, the first thing to say is that the most con­spic­u­ous hand upon the tiller is that of Mr Ro­gen. Look hard and you will dis­cover the odd moment of post-mod­ern pas­tiche – the Kick-Ass ten­dency, if you will – but, for the most part, The Green Hornet plays like a good-hearted, con­sis­tently ab­surd romp. Britt Reid, the Hornet’s al­ter-ego, be­gins the film as an id­iot and fails to gain wis­dom at any point.

The sec­ond point is that the film is di­vert­ing through­out. Less overblown than re­cent Mar­vel adap­ta­tions, less up it­self than Watch­men and Kick-Ass, The Green Hornet is closer to old-fash­ioned fool­ish­ness such as the Bat­man TV se­ries or Hong Kong Phooey. Lord knows whether any­one will go and see it (“What the heck is it?” they’ll say), but we might have ex­pected worse from the year’s first main­stream Event Pic­ture.

Largely an ori­gin story, the movie be­gins with the hero fall­ing out with his dad, a prom­i­nent LA pub­lisher. While the grumpy older man (charis­matic Tom Wilkin­son) frets about the city’s de­scent into an­ar­chy, young Britt swills back im­ported beer and flings TV sets through ho­tel win­dows.

The tra­di­tional arc would have the hero greet­ing dad’s death – ap­par­ently poi­soned by a bee – with a lunge to­wards re­spon­si­bil­ity and ma­tu­rity, but, as we men­tioned ear­lier, this is, more than any­thing else, a Seth Ro­gen movie. Britt’s de­ci­sion to fight crime, con­ceived with Kato (Chi­nese pop star Jay Chou), his fa­ther’s dis­creet dogs­body, de­vel­ops as a sort of lark­some prank to avoid the te­dium that comes from wal­low­ing in too much dis­pos­able in­come.

There’s noth­ing new here. The al­ter egos of Bat­man and Iron Man were sim­i­lar types. The dif­fer­ence is that the hero never pro­gresses from pam­pered posh boy to tor­tured avenger. Whether flirt­ing with Cameron Diaz’s (ahem!) brainy fac­to­tum or joust­ing with

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