Movie Review: The Green Hornet - Don't Get Stung

I've vowed not to start any reviews this January or February with a lament about what a horrible time of year this is for movies.

After all, no month -- nay, no weekend -- is exempt. You're as likely to get a stinker during the so-called Oscar season (hello? Little Fockers? Gulliver's Travels?) as you are in January - or June or October.

And you're just as likely to get a movie like The Green Hornet around, say, Memorial Day or July 4 as you are for the Martin Luther King weekend or Valentine's Day. There is no season for mindless comic-book influenced super-hero movies.

The pedigree for The Green Hornet is mixed, at best. On the one hand, you've got a script by Seth Rogen and cowriter Evan Goldberg, whose last two efforts were the enjoyable Superbad and Pineapple Express. And, for a curveball, you've got Rogen himself playing the title role, which gives it an oddly interesting spin.

On the other hand, the film is directed by the incredibly overrated Michel Gondry, whose last outing was the virtually unwatchable Be Kind Rewind. Gondry is also responsible for one of the decade's most unjustly praised films, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

And, true to form, The Green Hornet is a mixed bag -- not an abject failure, but still, not a film that recognizes its own strengths. It gets away with a lot - and is often more entertaining and enjoyable than it has any right to be. That's mostly about the loopy, loose-limbed performance by Rogen and the way he uses costar Jay Chou as a foil -- and vice versa. Still, there's a difference between comic-book action and cartoonishness, a distinction that Gondry doesn't seem to recognize. The Green Hornet suffers as a result.

Rogen plays Britt Reid, playboy scion to a media empire overseen by his stern father (Tom Wilkinson), crusading editor of the L.A. Daily Sentinel. But when daddy dearest dies mysteriously, Britt is forced to man up and step up to take control of the newspaper - a job that couldn't interest him less.

Then he meets Kato (Chou), his father's driver and mechanic -- who blows Britt's mind with both his mechanical prowess and, later, with his martial-arts skills. The two of them initially team up to go out and pull a masked prank -- stealing the head off the new statue of Dad.

But mid-vandalism, Britt comes across a gang of toughs attacking a young couple and, without thinking, challenges them. Suddenly he's surrounded by thugs and in danger of having his face rearranged. Kato comes to his rescue, revealing his previously unseen kung-fu chops to save Britt's skin.