At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Green Hornet “2011”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/Genre: Superhero/Stars: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Edward James Olmos, David Harbour, Tom Wilkinson, Jamie Harris, Chad Coleman, Edward Furlong, Analeigh Tipton, Jill Remez, Reuben Langdon, Jerry Trimble, James Franco/Runtime: 119 minutes

Take the undercover exploits of 007, give him a mask that would make the Lone Ranger proud, drop Q off at the science fair, pick up a weapons guy/ expert martial artist in one body from the karate studio, leave 2 decades at the curb, add on about 20 pounds, and I think you would have someone in the same vein as the character that is The Green Hornet. A name that in all fairness doesn’t have nearly as much going for it as say Green Lantern, Green Day, or even Green Goblin, but that’s all good. That’s because it may have taken him awhile to get to the cinematic superhero party, but here he is finally in all his….green (I really couldn’t come up with anything else) glory. Yet remarkably enough, this most assuredly is not the kind of superhero movie that the 2010’s and especially not the 2000s were known for giving audiences. Rather, this is the kind of movie that is actually a bit more novel since it’s not really about fighting bad guys as much as it is about the genuine bonds that can be formed between people due to something as simplistic as a chance encounter and a chemistry that is seemingly destined to be conjured up, but in the process is still the result of something as basic as a delicious cup of coffee. I mean sure it has its flaws, but at the end of the day the 2011 take on The Green Hornet is still most assuredly not a bad effort and is just a fun time to be had plain and simple.

The plot is as follows: The Green Hornet tells the story of a young man by the name of Britt Reid. A man who, among other noteworthy things, possess a good heart but who, due to never being appreciated in any meaningful way for his efforts from his dad, a newspaper tycoon, has decided to react by partying every night, bedding whatever girl he sets his sights on, and not really having any genuine aims or desires for his life thus ensuring that he never will be the twinkle in his dad’s eye. However this all changes when dear ol’ Pop is killed, by a sting from a bee no less, and his media empire is quickly placed into Britt’s highly reluctant hands. To that end, at least there is one praiseworthy thing that can be said for our intrepid hero: he is able to make perfectly clear he is not the man to be running things. A fact that becomes apparent when he promptly lays off the vast majority of people that his dad had hired. Yet when one of those old-timers brings Britt a morning cup of Joe, he is stunned to discover that this cup of coffee is not as good as it usually is. We soon learn that this is because he fired the man, a guy by the name of Kato, who made it the day before. Upon rehiring him however, Britt is shocked to discover that not only did Kato make the coffee, but he also designed and built the device that makes it so delicious. In other words: this is a guy who is as intelligent with tools and blueprints as Da Vince was with……anything that Da Vinci touched really. To that end, we soon see Britt and Kato really start to become great friends and one night decide to go and cause some mischief. However when the duo inadvertently thwart a minor assault in progress, the two decide to something even crazier. They decide to create their own duo of crime fighters with the caveat being that they’ll masquerade as villains so they can better infiltrate the criminal underworld and thus make getting rid of the real bad guys that much easier. However, when an aspiring crime lord by the name of Chudnofsky enters the scene will the combined talents and heroics of the newly christened Green Hornet and his sidekick be enough to win the day or will this baddie’s sting be too much to handle?

So right off the bat I want you to completely wipe from your mind that the 2011 take on The Green Hornet is fairly typically in both a narrative and a style perspective. I also want you to forget that the narrative will ask you to use the same amount of intellect as it would take for you to do something as simple as breathing. I ask you to forget these things because film helmer Michel Gondry manages to do a wonderful job at getting past these potholes in the road as it were by choosing to concentrate by and large on the one thing that makes this distinct narrative as entertaining as it ultimately turns out to be and that would be the dynamic that forms between Britt and Kato. Indeed this more than anything else is the saga of 2 guys who become pals and in the process find that they have “the right stuff” to become a dynamic duo of crime fighters with one providing the funds and enthusiasm and the one the mechanical skill….and the talent for making the perfect morning cup of coffee. Indeed these guys are by no means superheroes; rather they’re a pair of bros with some distinct attributes that are actually fairly relatable when compared to a lot of heroes out there.  To that end, the 2011 take on The Green Hornet is a film that is constructed by and large on this distinct bond to say nothing of the fun and enthusiasm of uncovering a novel world that you hadn’t thought to explore to say nothing of all the potential fallout both good and bad for choosing to become part of said world. Indeed a lot of the charm that is to be found in this slice of cinematic pie is due by and large to the goofy bumbling about by our dynamic duo in regards to their confusion about just how the world of good guys vs. bad guys is supposed to go down. A task that is made even harder since, as our heroes also discover, things don’t always work out, people are rarely if ever who they appear to be, and simply putting on a mask and going out in a decked out car is never adequate preparation for engaging the criminal element on their own turf.

With that in mind, it should be noted that the pair that is Seth Rogen and Jay Chou are truly terrific and fairly well cast as the titular wildly irresponsible man child and his quietly brilliant yet highly reluctant aide de camp respectively. Indeed when on their own they’re both missing something in their respective lives, but when they’re together they really do work quite well together to the point that they are a wonderful team with only each other in their respective corners (as well as some fairly ingenious and well-designed mechanical gadgets) to say nothing of being able to help ensure that they are able to survive the fairly chaotic attempts they make in trying to better the world around them safer. As for their main nemesis in this, an aspiring crime lord by the name of Chudnofsky, he honestly is less an actual villain and more like a caricature who exists to check a prerequisite box for the narrative to move along and for our intrepid heroes to engage in their back and forth and moments of physical comedy in the first place. Suffice it to say then that this is an Action/Comedy mix in the best way possible as this is one film that shoots vocal bullets as much as those shot from an actual gun. Yes there are a few jokes which come up blanks, a problem the guns never do incidentally, the vast majority of them do land right on the mark as intended even whilst they’re being highlighted by a degree of both realisticness and even feasibility that is sorely missing in the vast majority of films often considered to be “Superhero” films. No the 2011 Green Hornet is not an ominous or serious film with some truly emotional thematic concepts at play. Rather, it’s a fun little movie that might not be what the vast majority may want, but in regards to being purely entertaining it’s not as bad as it could have been either.

All in all I think I can safely say that in many respects the 2011 take on The Green Hornet was a decent little surprise of a movie. By that I mean whilst yes this movie does technically qualify, due to the source material, as one that is a “superhero film” it chooses instead to operate by and large more so as a buddy comedy film. Indeed it might not be dark in any way shape or form, it might be a tad bit messy, and it may even have a one-note antagonist (despite a game performance from the always delightful Christoph Waltz) who is really only there to give our dynamic doofus duo someone to combat, but this slice of cinematic pie still works to the degree it needs to thanks in large part to brilliant casting and wonderful work from Seth Rogen and Jay Chou in the lead roles. To that end, I think that the 2011 Green Hornet is a film that is best appreciated if you treat it as a relaxing, void of intellect film that puts significantly more focus on overwhelming action, quippy dialogue, and quite a bit of fighting. Indeed if you were to look at this as a genuine superhero film a’la something akin to say The Dark Knight for example that would be an absolutely pointless comparison and one not even worth attempting. Rather, I would say that this film to some degree is more along the lines of the first Iron Man from 2008. Maybe not with as much style and narrative quality perhaps, but most assuredly in terms of a similar sense of humor that helps to keep the action on an even keel. The difference of course being that in this film it is always about comedy first and foremost, action after that, and then after at least six feet of distance the narrative comes into the picture. Ultimately though, The Green Hornet “2011” is not the pinnacle of any movie going experience, but at the same time you could do a whole lot worse. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Green Hornet “2011” a solid 3 out of 5.