One of the best movie-going experiences of my life was in college, when we would gather at the theater on campus to watch second run movies for a dollar. It was a fully interactive experience — talking back at the screen (and even throwing things at it) was not discouraged. Since our ages only varied by a few years, our cultural frames of reference matched… and we all laughed uproariously at the same gags.
The movie “The Green Hornet” would be a perfect flick to see back at the dear old alma mater. It would go over perfectly with college kids, especially when they could throw popcorn at the screen.
Seth Rogen plays Britt, the son of a powerful media mogul. While his father is off editorializing and keeping the press honest, Britt parties with beautiful ladies in his father’s mansion. Someone brings him his latte every morning after his night of hard parties. What else do you need?
After his father passes away, Britt keeps the party going. However, he discovers the brewer of the coffee is a Chinese immigrant named Kato (Jay Chou) who just happens to be good at building superfly lowriders with bulletproof glass, guided missiles in the doors, and all the trimmings.
Thus a superhero is born. Britt becomes “The Green Hornet” and Kato his nameless sidekick. Kato does the driving, fighting, and planning while The Green Hornet takes the credit. Partying hasn’t prepared Britt to know how to take on the criminal establishment, so he enlists the help of his capable secretary, Lenore (Cameron Diaz), who studied criminology.
What plot there is revolves around a sensitive Russian mobster named Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) and a corrupt District Attorney (David Harbour). Like the Green Lantern, however, the plot only shows up when it wants to. The movie is all about Seth Rogen. He quips and smirks his way through scene after scene. When it works, you feel like you’re hanging with Rogan at his pad. You don’t particularly care if there’s a story going on or not.
Don’t look, however, for a true superhero flick. I haven’t seen the TV series on which the film is based, but I imagine the tone is quite different. After one brave deed early on, Britt and Kato waste no time rescuing innocent civilians or enforcing justice. That’s for schmucks. They take on the criminals directly, driving, literally, into their meth labs and lairs. Neither is motivated by a sense of justice, particularly, but by a juvenile craving for fame or even notoriety. Failing that, they’d just like to get the attention of any pretty girl in the room. Like an unusually non-self-reflective breed of frat boy, neither stops to examine his motives or even his methods.
As a Seth Rogen vehicle, it showcases his irreverent, slightly inappropriate, slacker sense of humor well. He’s toned his humor down from the ultra-bawdry days of “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” but the movie still won’t work for families. Although it’s rated PG-13, you’ll want to think twice about bringing your thirteen year olds. They stay away from the big swear words, but use the one referring to poo quite a bit. There are also quite a few words you wouldn’t want floating around your house, mostly slangy references to body parts. Plus, Britt wakes up, early on, with a girl in his bed. The fact that he does not remember the gentle lady’s name (and this is never considered a bad situation) makes the moral universe of the film unsuitable for many households.
For couples who don’t mind a bit of light off-color humor on date night, it could work. But, when the movie ends, you will have laughed quite a bit at Rogen’s witticisms, but not really gone anywhere. Britt is the same, Kato is the same, and the world is pretty much the same as when the film started. The stakes were never very high, so it doesn’t matter much if nothing has changed except your wallet is $10 lighter.
Which is another reason why this movie would play better in the $1 second-run movie theater.
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