Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Green Hornet

MPAA (PG-13) CNS/USCCB (L) Roger Ebert (1 star) Fr. Dennis (3 stars)

IMDb Listing -
CNS/USCCB Review -
Roger Ebert’s Review -

The Green Hornet, Seth Rogan’s latest vehicle (he both stars in the movie as Britt Reid/the Green Hornet and co-wrote it) is generally fun movie intended for young boys. Those who remember the radio series on which it was based or television version, where Reid’s/the Green Hornet’s side-kick Kato was played by Bruce Lee will certainly find fault in it. However, I certainly found the movie entertaining as did the audience of youngsters along with their parents that filled the movie theater when I saw it.

Rogan plays Britt Reid the disappointment of a son of big-time newspaper editor and civic leader James Reid (played by Tom Wilkinson). Was Britt just plain lazy of was this simply a reaction to unrealistic demands of his overacheiving and conscientious father? Does it matter? The effect was basically the same – until Britt’s father dies, Britt lives a dissolute life both to spite his dad and because he hasn’t found meaning in his existence. Most of us will never be as wealthy and privileged as the Reids were, but most of us could relate to one or, hopefully/eventually to both sides of this “father-son” conflict.

When James Reid dies of a sudden heart attack, Britt, filled with lingering resentment is determined to not participate in any way in continuing his father’s legacy. Only after inadvertently firing the only thing that he liked about his father’s management of his estate (the guy, Kato, who made Britt's morning cup of coffee), does he begin a long journey to appreciate the good (big and small) that his father had done during his life.

Kato, played here by Jay Chou, turns out to be much more than “the guy who made the awesome coffee at the Reid estate each morning." He was James’ private mechanic and a genius in that regard. Britt, who never even met Kato until the aftermath of the “firing incident” and his realization that he’s either going to have to drink “lousy coffee” from now on, or find who this Kato was, immediately takes a liking to Kato when they meet. True, Britt treats Kato demeaningly (though is oblivious to his doing so) throughout the movie, something that reviewers such as Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times and Mike Phillips of the Chicago Tribune found problematic/offensive. Still Kato becomes Britt’s talented and faithful sidekick. Kato knows his abilities and doesn’t need Britt’s validation of them, even though I agree with Ebert/Phillips, I would have liked it better too if Kato was more respected by Britt in the film. However that was Rogan’s take on Britt Reid, that yes, he was a bit of jerk even if he didn’t necessarily understand that he was being one. And this jerkiness (rather than straight-out arrogance) extends past Kato, his mechanic, but also to his highly competent and cheery secretary Lenore Case (underused in this movie but played superbly by Cameron Diaz. If there was a Green Hornet II in a few years, I do hope that she gets a bigger role then).

As in the original radio and television series, Britt Reid gets it in his head that with Kato’s mechanical wizardly the two could become local “super heroes,” combating crime by impersonating criminals (taking on the persona of “the Green Hornet”), destroying the criminals’ operations and then setting the criminals up for being nicely captured by the police.

In this movie, Seth Rogan’s Britt Reid along with his side-kick Kato take down fictional Russian emigre turned Los Angeles crime boss Chudnofsky (played again with comic exaggeration and delight by Christoph Waltz, who last year walked away with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing SS Officer Hanz Landau in Quentin Tarantino’s film “Inglourious Basterds” in much the same fashion) as well as corrupt District Attorney Scanlon (played without nearly as much fun by David Harbour).

Not particularly liked by other reviewers, I do think that the Green Hornet is a good fit for its primary target audience – young boys. In line with other PG-13 movies of its genre (Iron Man and especially Iron Man II), there are a lot of explosions and glass shatters everywhere but there’s no blood nor bodies. And Britt’s “dissolute lifestyle” is portrayed age-appropriately with lots of kissing/making out but little more than that and lots of spraying from champaign bottles but no actual drinking. The point being made, the movie finds little interest into going into details.

Then there are some useful, edifying lessons in the movie: Your dad may end up being cooler and just plain a better guy than you thought he was once you grow-up and better appreciate the "back side" of his story little better. And it’s _not bad_ being a side kick. Sure Britt treats Kato quite demeaningly throughout the movie. However, both the other characters, notably Lenore, and the entire audience appreciates the genius that Kato is and how lost Britt would have been without him. So Kato comes out "smelling like a rose" in the picture while most people do walk away feeling that Britt is something of a jerk, well-meaning perhaps, oblivious for sure, but still kind of jerk who you’d be friends with, sort of, with a little bit of distance between you and him. And _my_ sense is that’s _exactly_ how Seth Rogan wanted to play him.

Hence, sure I’d take the kids to this movie. It’s fun and even teaches a nice lesson or two. One last thing, once again I _don't_ see any particular reason why this movie would be need to be made or seen in 3D. So, honestly, save your money there.

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