Pulp Friction: Green Hornet and Kato are good pals, but they still can’t get along.
Pulp Friction: Green Hornet and Kato are good pals, but they still can’t get along.

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The Green Hornet, the superdude, is kind of a dick. Which makes The Green Hornet, the movie, a bit of a drag.

Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is a spoiled party boy who needs to man up when his coldhearted father (Tom Wilkinson), a newspaper publisher, suddenly dies. But he cares more about who’s making his coffee than running the paper, which leads him to Kato (Jay Chou), a “Swiss Army knife” of an assistant whose fighting skills and mechanical prowess were wasted taking care of Dad’s cars and brewing artful cappuccinos for his bratty son. They decide to “go crazy” one night and end up witnessing a robbery; when they get involved and Kato K.O.s the bad guys, Britt goes bonkers and convinces Kato that they should devote themselves to fighting crime. And thus the Green Hornet is born.

After a zippy beginning loaded with humor (featuring a stellar cameo by—who else?—James Franco) and relative excitement, Michel Gondry’s film (co-written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg) gets too wrapped up in the inevitable conflict. Which, in this case, is not so much with the bad guy (Christoph Waltz) but among Britt and Kato, who frequently turn on each other—a repeated scenario that always feels forced, especially in one looong fight sequence that seems to be completely unedited. There’s perhaps one too many we’re-not-gay jokes, but then the yuks are abandoned almost completely in favor of action, which means lots of explosions, gunfire, and unfollowable chaos. (Particularly if you’re seeing this in 3-D. Don’t see this in 3-D.)

Completing the devolution is the addition of another baddie whose inclusion serves to 1) confuse things and 2) make Britt see that maybe his father wasn’t a jerk after all. So, is The Green Hornet worthy of its dumping-ground January release? It’s a bit better than that. Will it become another superhero tentpole? Probably inevitable. But, I think, more Fantastic Four than Iron Man.