Critical Mass: 'The Green Hornet'
Talk about an odd pairing of talent and material: a French filmmaker known for his visual style, making a superhero action comedy based on a 1930s pulp character, co-written by and starring a guy known mainly for smoking a lot of pot, and featuring a Taiwanese pop star. So how did Michel Gondry, Seth Rogen and Jay Chou fare with their updating of "The Green Hornet"?
A split decision, according to the critics. The film is rating 49% positive reviews according to Movie Review Intelligence. So, if the movie is good for anything, it gives normally mild-mannered film critics a chance to excercise their ability to draw blood (rhetorically, anyway).
The Times' Kenneth Turan doesn't mince words when he calls it "an anemic, 97-pound weakling of the action comedy persuasion" and "a boring bromedy that features mumblecore heroics instead of the real thing." That's the critical equivalent of a Kato-style chop to the neck.
And those who feel Roger Ebert's thumb has grown kindlier in recent years should check out his brutal one-star review, in which he calls the film "an almost unendurable demonstration of a movie." Ebert also uses the occasion to rail further against Hollywood's never-ending stream of films boasting subpar 3-D in a postscript to his review that reads: "Yes, it was in 3-D. The more I see of the process, the more I think of it as a way to charge extra for a dim picture."
The co-host of Ebert's upcoming "At the Movies" revival, the Associated Press' Christy Lemire, also takes a moment to shake her head at the film's slipshod 3-D: "As for those 3-D effects, which were shot in 2-D and then converted? All the usual stuff: glass shards and bullet casings and flames flying at the screen, but nothing that ever pierces the heart or mind." Lemire places much blame on Gondry, whose distinctive style appears to be missing from this film, writing, "Except for a few sequences that carry a bit of his flair, this could have been made by anyone."
But fear not, "Superbad" fans! Not every critic needed an oxygen tank after heaving through this film. Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News didn't just tolerate the film, she seemed to love it! She writes, "Michel Gondry has crafted an irreverently funny, ultramodern take on the 1930s radio serial, with a vibe so casual you half expect star Seth Rogen to amble off screen and put his feet up on the seat next to you."
Tom Horgen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune also loves the film, marveling that "the movie these guys have come up with is fresh, funny and a bewildering surprise." But even he shares doubts about the use of 3-D here, wondering, "Does the paperweight on Rogen's desk need to be popping out of the frame? It's an unnecessary contrivance in a movie that's already made all the right moves."
So which is it? Is "The Green Hornet" some kind of bizarro superhero masterpiece or a big 3-D poo sandwich? The New York Times' A.O. Scott shoots right down the middle with his mediocre review. He writes, "'The Green Hornet' is not terrible, just pointless, and it offers further proof that superheroism is, at least for now, pretty well tapped out as a vein of lucrative pop-cultural bounty."
--Patrick Kevin Day
Photo: Seth Rogen, left, slugs a bad guy in "The Green Hornet." Credit: Columbia Pictures