The Men Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

By Krystle Wong

Like its titular hero, “The Green Hornet” is less about defeating bad things than befriending them. Despite director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) in the driver’s seat and writer/actor Seth Rogen riding shotgun, “The Green Hornet”’s original 1930s cohesion is lost in a haze of clunky kitsch — choosing to follow its own invented premise.

“Hornet”’s Britt Reid is the son of wealthy newspaper publisher James Reid, who dies from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. An irresponsible playboy who has little in common with his hardworking father, Reid is unfazed by his death (“He was a bit of a dick”) and apathetic to the media empire left in his incapable hands. Shortly thereafter, Reid is introduced to Kato — a talented Chinese mechanic with high-precision martial arts and latte skills (played by Jay Chou).

But here’s where “Hornet”’s logic starts to sting: Reid unexpectedly decides the duo should use its untapped potential to achieve his childhood dream of crime fighting. The billionaire hopes to rid L.A. of its local baddies by making nice with them — minus, thank God, the spandex.

“Green” is one way to describe Rogen’s action debut — even trimmed down and gussied up, the funnyman is all klutz and white noise as he delivers lukewarm dialogue with incredulity and fumbling tact, he makes his turn as the womanizing party-boy Reid a conflict of character rather than a refreshing outlook on the superhero archetype. A look at the long line of heartthrobs who passed on the role only adds salt to the wound: George Clooney, Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Wahlberg were all contenders before Rogen took the reins.

The rest of the casting is equally baffling — Cameron Diaz plays smart femme fatale Lenore Case in her perky, doe-eyed best, Chou’s broken English slows the already- decelerated action sequences and overqualified Christoph Waltz plays arch-nemesis Chudofsky, a part originally meant for Nicholas Cage — who demanded the villain speak with a Jamaican accent (Gondry was reportedly relieved when the “National Treasure” star abdicated his role).

Though Chou’s tongue-tricks may not be up to speed, his fighting style is: Fighting sequences are slowed by Kato-vision — a 3D-tunnel view that follows the actor throughout his scenes — playing up Chou’s form as he high-kicks and jumps with exacting timing and precision.

But with such an inconsistent mess on its hands, “The Green Hornet” has squandered inherent movie buzz and marred any cin- ematographic merits. Still, superhero-flick fanatics will probably give “Hornet”’s crew the box office moneymaker that Sony Pictures is betting on. To those less devout to the world of comic book oldies: Wait for a more prolific green hero to take the silver screen come June. (C)

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