I never had many comic books as a child. There were too few words in them to keep me going for longer than five or ten minutes, so when I pestered my parents for something, it was usually a more substantial book sans pictures. I knew Batman and Spider-man and Superman, of course. They were the big names who had their own cartoon shows. But of Green Hornet, Green Lantern, and the rest, I was blank. I didn’t even know there was a difference. The trailers for this year’s round of comic book films have cleared this up for me. Here’s The Green Hornet:
The layabout son of a newspaper mogul decides to fight crime with the help of his father’s genius Chinese mechanic/designer by pretending to be a masked bad guy.
And the Green Lantern is, apparently, an Air Force test pilot turned alien. Good to know. Anyway, I kind of hate Seth Rogan, so I wasn’t really looking forward to The Green Hornet. Green Lantern yes, Green Hornet no. But I packed a muffin to snack on when I got bored and I went anyway. And I was really surprised. I was having so much fun, I forgot to eat my muffin. That’s how awesome it was.
I guess they took some liberties with their re-imagining of The Green Hornet, because from what little I know of the old incarnations (which include a radio show, a comic book, and a movie), The Green Hornet was a suave, sophisticated, responsible type guy who always wore suits and just happened to have a green car. In this one, Britt Reid is played by Seth Rogan, who can only be considered suave and responsible in an alternate universe where the meanings of these words are reversed. And the writers (Evan Goldberg and, oddly enough, Seth Rogan) realize this.
So Britt Reid is now a lazy, useless douche with a good heart (way down deep somewhere).
The trailer made it seem like Britt was taking over the Green Hornet role when his responsible etc. etc. billionaire father died but actually Britt’s dad (Tom Wilkenson) was a jackass and all he did was run a newspaper and be a jerk to Kato (Jay Chou), the Chinese auto mechanic he went through so much trouble to rescue from the streets of Shanghai. In fact, Britt and Kato develop their initial bond over their mutual hatred of Britt’s dad.
Their first escapade can best be described as ‘drunken mischief’ and involves this statue.
But in a freak turn of events, while they’re vandalizing statues, Britt sees a nice young couple getting mugged and decides to intervene, rather inexpertly, and has to be rescued by Kato, who BTW, has mad martial arts skillz and a mental threat-assessment ability akin to the auto-targeting in a first person shooter video game.
Like Jet Li, but not old.
Their vandalism (not their heroism) is reported in the paper (that Britt now owns) the next day, giving Britt the fantastically stupid idea that they should fight crime as masked heroes while pretending to be villains. Which basically means they have twice the number of people who want to kill them. Someone please explain to me how that’s a good thing… which is pretty much exactly what Kato says.
But I get to have an alter ego!
Britt is the guy with the money, so he gets what he wants. Kato builds him some awesome cars, because he is a genius weapons/car designer/mechanic as well as being a champion martial artist and coffee maker.
So to sum up: Britt = lame, Kato = awesome.
Apart, possibly, from drink mixing…
He also has no finesse, no brains, no common sense, and he’s kind of a jackass. If the movie completely ignored this fact and made Kato be happy with his lot in life as the subservient Asian chauffer from the 1950s, this movie would be lame and annoying. But director Michel Gondry knows Britt is lame. Britt knows Britt is lame. Kato knows Britt is lame. But they’re friends anyway because Britt actually appreciates the things that Kato can do and because he’s got this childlike enthusiasm for mayhem.
And he does things that are funny, like shoot himself in the face with a gun that makes farts.
Neither of them have any clue as to how to go about being criminals, so Britt hires a secretary named Lenore (Cameron Diaz) and mines her vast store of journalism/criminal justice knowledge (so why is she a secretary?) for what to do next. This would all be fine and good if she was 68 like her name suggests, but she’s Cameron Diaz, so they both want her.
Two boys + one girl = fight
Which is not good, because they’ve also managed to piss off the resident crime boss, a guy named Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). Chudnofsky is a weirdly poncey, slightly insane bad-ass dude who carries a double-barreled handgun and frequently shoots and/or blows up people who piss him off.
He’s basically the same character as in Inglorious Basterds, but without the Nazi getup.
Mayhem ensues, and that’s when things start to get really fun. Like muffin forgetting fun. Chudnofsky destroys half of L.A. trying to kill them and they destroy the other half trying to get away from him. Every pane of glass in the world gets shattered, there are bullets embedded in every wall, and I’m sure the police find it all very helpful (not). Luckily Britt’s superpower is money, so he can pay for it all.
Note to self: get out of car, then get in elevator.
One of the best things about The Green Hornet is how Britt and Kato are always winging it. This leads to some pretty unique and spectacular failures (and successes) and it really fosters a connection between them. Even though there’s a girl in the movie, this isn’t a hero-gets-the-girl kind of movie. It’s the heroes-become-best-friends-forever type of movie where there’s a girl to act as a stumbling block.
Let’s roll, Kato!
And also, there’s a car that shoots rockets. Can’t forget the car that shoots rockets.
So because it is different and fun and I actually laughed at a lot of the jokes that Seth Rogan wrote and delivered, I will call this movie awesome. I expected to spend my whole review calling it lame and stupid and telling you not to see it, but here I am, recommending it, because it is awesome. It doesn’t earn Seth Rogan a place on the list, but it at least gets him off the anti-list. I can no longer avoid movies just because he’s in them. That’s something, wouldn’t you say?