shoot ’em: Rogen and Chou in The Green Hornet.
Louder Next Time
by Michel Gondry
is addicted to the tried and true property, no matter how
threadbare. So Johnny Depp is going to star in The Lone
Ranger, though it’s been 30 years since it was a flop
movie with Klinton Spilsbury, 50 years since it was a hit
TV show starring Clayton Moore, and 70 years since it was
a radio-drama smash, expertly parodied by Bob Clampett in
the immortal 1939 Looney Tune The Lone Stranger and Porky.
And so, this week, we are presented with the $120 million
spectacle The Green Hornet. The Green Hornet
was a smash radio series in the 1930s and 40s, a movie serial,
and a one-season 1966 TV show that (despite the electric presence
of Bruce Lee) couldn’t quite cash in on the Batman
craze. Now it’s a loud, fitfully entertaining piece of Hollywood
bric-a-brac that costs (at least) $17.25 to see in IMAX 3D.
A few smart, creative people were involved in reimagining
this property, principally director Michel Gondry; actor-writer
Seth Rogen, who penned the script with his Superbad
writing partner Evan Goldberg; and actor Christoph Waltz,
who plays the main villain.
What did they have to work with? The Green Hornet is a Batman-style,
secret-identity superhero who has a lot of money, owns a powerful
big-city newspaper, and has a cool sidekick, the martial arts
expert and technology wiz Kato. The Green Hornet’s shtick
is that he pretends to be one of the villains while actually
being a hero. Britt Reid—that’s his “real” name—is not a misunderstood
teenager like Spider-Man; he’s a low-key member of society
who likes to put on a mask and kick a little ass.
What did they do with it? Emphasized the Hornet’s daddy issues
(“daddy,” it turns out, didn’t love the little insect enough
in the pupa stage) and made the Hornet an immature adult of
the kind Rogen’s played before. This works well enough. Rogen
knows how to push the “jerk” thing about as far as the audience
will go. They even wrote a couple of terrific scenes for Waltz;
the opener, with Waltz squaring off against a cocky James
Franco, is worthy of Tarantino. They should have written a
few more scenes for Waltz, and a few less for Rogen.
They cast Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou as Kato; he’s not bad,
and carries his scenes well.
Gondry seems to have put most of his enthusiasm into Kato’s
fight scenes; his “Kato vision” effects are actually pretty
cool, breaking down each punch and kick into screen-splitting
Cameron Diaz is the odd woman out. Cast as an aging girl Friday—yes,
they make an issue of her age, but then so does the camera—she’s
supposed to have more brains than Kato and the Hornet put
together. Diaz seems lost, however. Her Lenore is neither
enthusiastic enough about criminology to believably put up
with these morons, nor funny enough to justify her screen
In the end, neither Gondry nor Rogen nor Chou nor the special
effects wizards nor Waltz can outflank the machinery of the
contemporary blockbuster, with its humorless demand for an
endless series of (ho-hum) explosive climaxes.
But maybe they just didn’t try hard enough. Maybe they didn’t
really believe in the coolness of what they were working with.
Not until the end of the picture do we hear the classic Green
Hornet theme, “The Flight of the Bumble Bee.” It’s badass.
In fact, it’s badass in and of itself; it was badass when
the aforementioned Quentin Tarantino used it for Uma Thurman’s
Tokyo entrance in Kill Bill. It seems like Gondry and
Rogen didn’t clap hard enough, and Tinkerbelle died.
Choice at All
by Ron Howard
Directed by Ron Howard at his blandest, The Dilemma is
a bromance that relies on bromides. Vince Vaughn is Ronny,
a car-engine salesman, and Kevin James is Nick, his engineer
partner and best friend. Predictably enough, Vaughn plays
the motor-mouth hotshot, and James plays almost the same likeable
doofus he played in Hitch. The hitch here is that Nick,
who compares marriage to comfort food, has no clue that his
wife, Geneva (Winona Ryder), has a hot young stud muffin on
the side. Ronny discovers the affair while preparing a location
in a botanical garden where he can propose to his longtime
girlfriend, Beth (Jennifer Connelly). He falls into a patch
of poisonous plants and contracts a horrible rash, akin to
how Hitch swelled up from shellfish, and that’s not the worst
example of the recycled padding The Dilemma uses to
expand a sitcom concept into a feature-length movie. The
Dilemma has little to feature other than Vaughn’s by-now
clichéd glibness and a quick goose at Ryder’s good-girl image.
Adding to Ronny’s artificially inflated quandary—he stalks
Geneva’s boy toy and lies to Beth about it—is the pressure
Nick is under to produce an electric-car engine that roars
and vibrates like a 1950s muscle car. As the deadline with
their contract with Dodge (apparently the film’s sponsor)
approaches, Ronny’s crazed behavior accelerates, leading to
the film’s one and only funny scene, in which Ronny proposes
an acutely inappropriate toast to Beth’s parents on their
wedding anniversary. Written by Alan Loeb, The Dilemma
isn’t as abysmally contrived as his script for The Switch,
but as a brand-name screenwriter, Loeb is on a par with the
fake vroom-zoom of a computerized V-8 sound effect.