Review (2011): The Green Hornet: No tights required

Seth Rogen , left, and Jay Chou star in The Green Hornet.
Seth Rogan and Jay Chou might not our first choice to upgrade “The Green Hornet.”
But they’re better than no one even attempting an upgrade.

The Green Hornet (PG-13, 119 minutes): Here’s my checklist of reasons why I liked The Green Hornet.

• Superhero newspaper publisher.
• 3D-enchanced gunfight in newsroom and printing plant.
• Al Hirt’s most-awesome Flight of the Bumblebee.
• Memories of a rock’em-sock’em TV series.
• Kato.
• References to Bruce Lee.
Black Beauty.
Gangsta Paradise.

I’ve always liked the Green Hornet. It might be disputed, but I wasn’t around in the 1930s for the radio series that started the whole Green Hornet thing. But in the 1960s, I did catch the TV series, starring Fort Worth’s own Van Williams as Britt Reid and Bruce Lee as Kato.

Before they came on the scene, we had Batman and Robin, sometimes Superman. They were all cool, of course, but those superheroes had costumes that required tights — not a cool thing to wear when you’re a young boy, even at Halloween. I can see why Batman, Robin and Superman were fighting all the time. It probably had to do with the tights.

But I digress.

Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet story is an updated version that hasn’t wowed the critics. But you’re not going to win today’s superhero geeks if you give it to them old-school. At first, I wasn’t too keen about goofus Rogen playing the Britt Reed that Van Williams played so stoically in the TV series. Nonetheless, about halfway through the movie, I was buying it. It was a necessary update.

It especially worked when the Green Hornet and Kato do a little karaoke to Gangsta’s Paradise on their maiden journey to fight crime in the Black Beauty. That was awesome. Kinda brought back memories of Wayne and Garth head-banging to Bohemian Rhapsody in the Mirthmobile in Wayne’s World. Kinda.

Cameron Diaz appears as Lenore, Reid’s personal secretary who keeps Green Hornet and Kato on their crimefighting track. She continues her obligatory movie appearance in underwear or short shorts. She does a great rant about the state of newspapers in the digital age. That was an odd thing to hear in this movie. And then there’s Christoph Waltz, who plays villian Chudnofsky. Waltz, who took villianary up a notch as a Nazi in Inglorious Basterds, is woefully underused. His character complains and gets hurt feelings when he’s thought to be not be scary enough. His detractors are right. He’s not scary enough.

THE PLOT: Rogen as Britt Reed is a Richie Rich-type of guy who wallows in the wealth created from his father’s publishing empire. When his father dies, Britt searches for an identity and stumbles on to Kato, who shows him all the cool stuff that he was creating for the elder Reed. Britt sees an opportunity to be crimefighters and uses his wealth and Kato’s genius to pull it off. Then, there are gunfights. Slo-mo martial arts. Cameron Diaz. Journalism ethics. Good guys on the take. Smug crooks. Rolls of newsprint get shot up. Explosions. Ejector seats. Al Hirt.

TAKE YOUR KIDS: Sure. In fact, they’ll love Kato. When I was a kid, everyone wanted to be Kato. You knew that if Kato really wanted to, he could take out anyone, even the Green Hornet. It’s rated PG-13, but the gunfights aren’t that vicious, just loud. People get shot and smashed, but it’s cartoonish. The language is a little unnecessary, but it’s Seth Rogen.

BEST TIME FOR A BATHROOM BREAK: Depends on what size drink you’ve had. It’s a long movie (nearly two hours), so the gun battles/chases last long enough and don’t really add to the 3D experience.

PERSONAL DISCLOSURE: I dressed as Kato a couple of times for Halloween back in the ’70s. Also, I took trumpet lessons in hopes of playing Al Hirt’s rapidfire “Green Hornet” theme. Couldn’t pull it off. OMG, who could? I can see why Hirt was a trumpet superstar.

AVAILABILITY NOW: No doubt on DVD. Hadn’t seen it on cable yet.


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