The Green Hornet: 3 (out of 10)

Much as it surprises me to say it, the biggest failing in The Green Hornet is not Seth Rogen. Oh, sure, Rogen doesn't help matters any; not only is he miscast in the role, but his standard on-screen-character is miscast just as badly, and his co-authorship of the script didn't do him any favors. No, the fundamental problem was that the script is too specific in its subject matter: a classic radio serial drama, long-forgotten and remade for a modern comic-book audience after. It turns out that nobody knows how to make such a beast, and what we're left with is a bit of an uneven mess.

One example of this unevenness was the film's treatment of "heroic" violence. Kato is generally unarmed, and the Green Hornet carries a gas gun, ostensibly because such a weapon is non-lethal. But their car (the Black Beauty, as much of a character as the two protagonists), is equipped with machine guns, rocket launchers, and a flame thrower, and the pair uses these weapons indiscriminately. Often this is played as simple "cartoon" violence - the baddies are not even scratched by the rocket fire - but every now and then, somebody is killed messily. But every now and then, the pair of them kill somebody messily - and there's no difference in tone, no acknowledgement of difference on the pair's part. Most worrisomely, this feels both intentional and un-considered, almost accidental. The script is attempting to merge the sensibilities of the serials, the old films, the current comic audiences, and the modern need for pretty special effects; and the combination just doesn't work.

The characters are similarly confused. Headlining the film, Seth Rogen's character of Britt Reid plays a wide variety of roles - not just a millionaire playboy by day and a hero by night, but the unfortunate buffoon upstaged by his assistant; a man-child; a loveable buffoon; a moral crusader; and, most irritatingly, a sex-crazed CEO. This might have worked if presented over a number of iterations, but as it stands this confusion just made the character irritating and unlikeable.

The acting itself is, for the most part, uninspired. Christoph Waltz does an acceptable turn as the Big Baddie, but isn't given enough of a character to be anything more than a caricature. Jay Chou shows flashes of depth as Kato, but the script doesn't really allow it to go anywhere. Cameron Diaz is, well, Cameron Diaz. And Rogen, well, I don't generally dislike him as an actor, but I don't feel like I had much of a choice with this character. The only character I can say that I liked was Axford, the editor of the paper, but that's just because he was played by Edward James Olmos and he stayed out of the way.

For all of that, I can't say that I hated the movie. This would have made a good comic; in fact, it felt like the conversion from script to storyboard to screen was extremely solid, showing a pretty decent understanding of the source material at all of its levels. The action scenes were generally fun (if, again, cartoon-y), and might well have been well suited for 3-D. The gadgets were nifty. The story held together acceptably. And there were parts where I laughed, mostly surrounding the actual connection between comic and film.

Maybe it would have helped if the movie had chosen whether it was a comedy or an action movie. Maybe it would have helped if the film had been more focused on a single component of the entire concept of Green Hornet. Or maybe all it would have taken would have been to cast somebody that didn't co-write the movie in the lead role. But whatever it would have taken to make this an acceptable movie, this wasn't it.

Rating: 3/10 (* 3/4 out of 4)