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In âThe Green Hornet,â Seth Rogen plays a masked vigilante spurred on not by a sense of wrongs needing to be righted, but instead by his immature ego.
Thatâs certainly a twist on the Hornetâs legacy. Originally a radio character, the Green Hornet was featured in movies in the 1940s, then comic books and pulp novels, and finally a popular TV series in the â60s (with a memorably âbuzzyâ theme song by the eraâs superstar trumpeter, Al Hirt).
The new movie follows the basic Hornet legacy, as Britt Reid, a newspaper editor by day, takes on the criminal underworld by night, aided by his Chinese sidekick, Kato.
But this Hornet, as played (and co-scripted) by Rogen, is a spoiled, party-boy slacker who inherits the newspaper after the death of his tycoon father. When Reid sees that the publication can serve to publicize and promote his crime-fighting alter ego, the presses are soon rolling with splashy front-page coverage of the Hornetâs exploits.
In another twist, Reid doesnât start out wanting to fight crime. He stumbles into that mission after a night of prankish vandalism intersects with a group of heavily armed young thugsâŠand Kato saves his cowardly skin.
Cameron Diaz plays Reidâs sexy office assistant, Lenore, and Jay Chou is Kato, an engineering genius and martial-arts expert who designs all the Hornetâs cool crime-fighting hardware, including a gun that shoots green âsleep gasâ and a tricked-out fleet of high-tech cars.
Cristoph Waltz, who took home an Academy Award last year for his role in âInglorious Basterds,â portrays the cityâs reigning crime lord, none too happy with the Hornet. And donât tarry too long in line for popcorn before the movie starts, or youâll miss the uncredited cameo by James Franco, last seen between a rock and a hard place in â127 Hours,â who finds out just how touchy Waltzâs character, Chudnofsky, is about his turf, his appearance and his difficult-to-pronounce name.
Though itâs structured much like a conventional crime-action caper, this Hornet gets most of its buzz from the laughter it generates as Reid and Kato plan and their excursions, and the romantic triangle that results when Diazâ character enters the story.
This PG-13 âHornetâ marks the first non-R-rated comedy for Rogen, best known for the raunchy yuks of âKnocked Up,â âThe 40 Year Old Virginâ and âSuperbad.â A scene in which Kato plays a piano is a nod to the fact that when heâs not acting, Chou is a pop star in his native Taiwan.
Green Hornet fans across generations will enjoy connecting this modern version to its pop-cultural roots stretching back more than seven decades, noting the ways it riffs on the original premise but remains true to many of the details.
At one point, Reid flips through Katoâs notebook of sketches and doodles. He pauses briefly on one of Bruce Lee, the Hong Kong actor and martial-arts expert who became known to Americans as Kato in the TV series of the â60s.
Then Reid turns the page, and so does the movie---onto a new era, a new Kato, and a new Hornet whose crime-busting sting comes with a sloppy salve of noisy, rowdy fun.