| The comedic screenwriting tandem of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (“Pineapple Express” and “Superbad”) put a clever modern retrofit on the Green Hornet and his sidekick Kato, a masked crime-fighting duo originally conceived by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker for a 1936 radio serial drama. Along with director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), they provide audiences with an entertaining winter popcorn flick. It delivers lots of bang for your buck in laughs and action.
The prologue shows a young boy never able to live up to his father’s expectations and labeled as a failure. The movie fast forwards to the present day. The boy is now party animal Britt Reid (Rogen from “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”), the filthy-rich heir to his dad’s media empire.
His father, James (Tom Wilkinson from “Batman Begins”), is the owner, publisher and editorial columnist of the Los Angeles-based newspaper The Daily Sentinel. He encourages his son to get off his lazy butt and find a purpose in life that will give him a sense of fulfillment.
When his father suddenly dies from an allergic reaction to a bee sting, an unprepared Britt has some pretty big shoes to fill. Britt fires his dad’s entire staff of servants at the mansion. He quickly rehires his dad’s former mechanic Kato (Taiwanese actor/singer Jay Chou from “Curse of the Golden Flower”) because he makes a good cup of coffee.
Britt describes Kato as a “human Swiss Army knife.” His many talents include gadget making, martial arts and the ability to freeze time when his heart starts pumping adrenaline referred to as “Kato-vision.”
Their partnership begins with a joyride and a prank to decapitate a statute of Britt’s father. This simple act of vandalism turns into one of heroism when the pair stops a mugging of a young couple in progress.
They decide to form an alliance and put a new spin on the superhero motif. They will pose as villains and act like heroes by eliminating the criminal element for the police.
The lovely and beautiful Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz from “There’s Something About Mary” and “The Mask”) appears on the scene and becomes Britt’s permanent secretary. She provides a game plan for the pair to follow working their way up to the top of L.A.’s crime ladder. They must eventually square off with the powerful Benjamin Chudnofsky (Oscar winner Christoph Waltz from “Inglorious Basterds”), who is obsessed with being perceived as scary.
This menacing villain establishes his notoriety at the beginning of the film in a confrontation with a rival drug dealer (a cameo appearance by James Franco from “127 Hours” and “Pineapple Express”). Their verbal exchange sets the comedic tone of this parody with Franco making fun of Chudnofsky’s hard-to-pronounce name.
The winning chemistry between Rogen and Chou is the main reason to see the movie. Their verbal bantering is full of memorable one-liners. They have a knock-down-drag-out fight in an effort to prove who the tough guy of their vigilante enterprise is. Despite being a martial arts master, Kato reveals his Achilles heel when he lands in the swimming pool.
Britt proves to be a stubborn yuppie wimp at times unable to maintain a clear line of thought. A running gag throughout the movie is Britt trying to come up with an alter ego moniker for sidekick Kato.
These two buddies vie for Lenore’s attention in a romantic triangle that never really materializes. Lenore is not one to mix business with pleasure. She even threatens the ogling Britt with a sexual harassment lawsuit.
The coolness factor comes in spades from the tricked-out Chrysler Imperial that is rechristened “The Black Beauty.” This car’s innovative additions include a flame thrower, a rocket launcher, ejector seats and even a record player.
Composer James Newton Howard infuses the musical score with a hipster soundtrack. The movie proceeds at such a quick pace that the audience willingly suspends disbelief at things happening that defy logic. The movie is full of visual eye candy that includes use of a split screen and rapid editing to speed up the car chases and hand-to-hand combat sequences.
This appears to be a breakout role for the talented and charismatic Chou, whose star should rise in Hollywood.
The movie’s initial Christmas release date was delayed so that it could be converted to 3D in post production.
The first big-budget blockbuster of 2011 is available in standard 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D (exclusively in Johnson County at AMC Town Center 20 and AMC Studio 30) formats.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"