The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Did Michel Gondry pull his cinematic punches with 'The Green Hornet'?

January 12, 2011 | 11:51 am

Michel_gondry I gotta figure that based on fanboy curiosity alone, "The Green Hornet" should end up as the weekend's No. 1 film. But the early critical reception has been awfully lackluster, with the film currently posting a weak 47 Fresh Rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The big surprise is that the critics are especially disappointed in Michel Gondry, a longtime favorite for his wonderfully original and idiosyncratic work on such films as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "The Science of Sleep."

No one's using adjectives like idiosyncratic to describe Gondry's work on "The Green Hornet," which seems to bear much more of the stamp of cut-up comic star Seth Rogen (who also co-wrote the film) and producer Neal Moritz, who's best known for such straight-ahead, get-thee-to-the-multiplex fare as "Stealth," "Click," "The Bounty Hunter" and "The Fast and the Furious" series.

Gondry seems to have thrown out most of his signature squiggly-strange directorial touches, afraid they would derail the "Hornet's" potential franchiseability. As IFC's Matt Singer writes of Gondry's directorial role, the film "bears little of his personal stamp. It doesn't have the handmade quality or visual dexterity of a Gondry film.... It's loud, slick, and relies heavily on pop music and sleight-of-hand editing to keep the film moving so fast audiences don't have time to notice how little they care about the characters or story."'s Daniel Hubschman says that Gondry's unique directorial personality is only present in a handful of scenes, concluding that "his contributions to the film amount to little more than rainbow sprinkles atop a very vanilla piece of cinema." Time Out New York's Keith Uhlich agrees, wondering "where is Michel Gondry in all this?"

Not everyone is down on the film. Variety's Peter Debruge called the movie "a blast" that delivers the goods "for a punchy 3D breakout." Still, it seems clear that even if "Hornet" connects with enough moviegoers to turn a tidy profit, it won't be a huge breakout success for Gondry. Unlike Chris Nolan, who adroitly embraced the "Batman" franchise, Gondry still needs to find the right commercial property that can serve as a sleek vehicle for his artistic ingenuity.

--Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Michel Gondry at the premiere of "The Green Hornet" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Credit: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters