Who's In It: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, David Harbour, Edward James Olmos
The Basics: When his father suddenly dies, party boy/layabout/celebutard Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) inherits a media empire but he still lacks direction in life. Until, that is, a night of drunken vandalism stirs the beginnings of something resembling purpose in the irresponsible and boyish Britt, and he transforms into the Richie Rich-meets-Batman crime fighter The Green Hornet, waging a war against L.A.'s toughest gangs with his trusty associate and genius engineer Kato (Jay Chou) by his side. Conspiracies are uncovered as Britt and Kato battle a ruthless crime lord (Christoph Waltz) and clean up the city, but their biggest enemy is much more powerful. We're talking jealousy, people -- bitter, immature, irritating, fall-in-the-pool-fighting masculine jealousy!
What's the Deal: This high octane, heavily bromantic adaptation of the iconic but lesser known masked hero glides by on smarts and humor, not to mention a genuinely impressive final showdown packed with car chases, wanton destruction, cool gadgets, and thankfully, unconventional surprises. If director Michel Gondry is most guilty of anything it's in trying to pack too much in; he hangs on to one too many action scenes and often lets his actors ramble, linger and (one assumes) improvise for far too long. Having too much excess material in turn throws the pacing off, with often distracting results. But the force of Gondry's creative visions are charming nonetheless, as is the brotherly chemistry between Rogen and Chou. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for movies with random '90s rap covers and silly, jaw-dropping chases that end in cars being chopped in half by elevators.
When Is a Little Seth Rogen Still Too Much Seth Rogen? When Seth Rogen is in every other scene striking those goofy Seth Rogen expressions and laying on the awkward charm, talking in that Rogen voice and laughing that Rogen laugh. It's really no fault of his own that Seth Rogen brings, well, Seth Rogen to a role, but it becomes grating nevertheless – and at times, when Rogen as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet compensates for his own self-doubt by acting superior and stroking his own ego, he becomes downright unlikable.
The Green Hornet's Secret Weapons: Christoph Waltz is mesmerizing as Chudnofsky, a super villain who's overly concerned with how other people view him and who deals with his own mid-life crisis when he's not cracking down on his minions. Jay Chou impresses as Kato, lending the formerly stereotypical, subservient sidekick role some much needed strength and smarts and displaying wonderful comic timing despite not speaking much English prior to filming. Cameron Diaz feels slightly wasted as the only female in the film, but her arc avoids the usual clichés so unexpectedly that her character becomes more than just an accessory.
Gondry's Best Tricks: Kato-Vision, envisioned and orchestrated with great inventiveness by Gondry, is a recurring pleasure to behold. His car chases, involving the pimped out Black Beauty, are some of the best-choreographed action scenes in recent memory. And while the 3D is among the best 3D conversion job we've seen of late (dynamic and brightly lit!), the film's greatest technical achievement is a virtuoso bit of filmmaking in which Gondry splits a screen in half and simultaneously follows both paths of action as they diverge, then keeps splitting the parts exponentially until the cinema screen is a collage of simultaneous branches of the same action.