The new year for action movies has Seth Rogen motivated into playing a role coveted by many from radio, film, comics and television. From the studio marketing applied to the large-screen 3D format, the targeted demographic is a bit younger than the usual lewd and cruder Rogen fare. They should like his loose character who embraces the chance to take some responsibility in his life.
He's the insouciant masked avenger in Michel Gondry's "The Green Hornet," costarring Tom Wilkinson, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, and Christoph Waltz. It doesn't emerge as a unique, original creation, not willing to take many chances like the gritty, yet offensive "Kick-Ass."
This wobbly, mostly tedious enterprise does have a touch of Gondry's visual ecstasy as well as producer Neal H. Moritz ("The Fast and The Furious") behind it, so there's some cool, hot wheels in the form of an indestructible Black Beauty.
Britt Reid (for those who know 'The Lone Ranger' from the airwaves there are familial ties) has lived hopelessly under stern prominent Los Angeles publishing mogul as dad James (Wilkinson of "The Ghost Writer" and much earlier "Rush Hour").
The now-adult Britt (Rogen) thus goes without direction in his life hitting all the hot party spots in town, living off the family fortune.
After the arcane demise of his father, Britt is left with quite a conglomerate and having to deal with one of James's brightest underlings in one Kato, done with some suave, mercurial prowess by Jay Chou (called by some the Usher of the Far East).
Of course, the screenplay by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who collaborated in smoother, semi-autobiographical fashion in the snappy, retro-like "Superbad," befriends a buddy adventure, perhaps too juvenile in execution. An odd couple in Britt and Kato won't get along for a while before realizing their inner (crime-fighting) child as The Green Hornet is unleashed.
They'll hit the seedier side of a city run by underworld baddie Benjamin Chudnofsky (careful about how you pronounce it) acting as vigilantes in order to protect the lives of the innocent with some nifty gadgets thanks to the Kato's way with technology and transportation.
There has to be someone who arouses these immature guys in temp then administrative assistant and partner Lenore Case (an underutilized Diaz of "Knight and Day"). It adds a little uncertainty to a veritable remarkable duo who ultimately have to take down the one who wants to "swat down" a nuance with a growing reputation once and for all.
So, another "origin tale" will get by for many on its zippy action and tongue-in-cheek nature. But the villainous Chudnofsky puts "Inglorious Basters" Oscar-winner Waltz in a weaker light as he gets more studio offers probably without the detail or subtext a thespian like him needs.
Rogen's latest foray as a lead character is intermittently amusing, but mostly mediocre as he and a creditable Chou really don't have the kind of rapport that some expect from a beloved source. But, a playfulness espoused by the production (with the 3D not really more than one would expect) sometimes calls to mind 007 shaken and stirred with more hedonism and arrested development that perhaps could work for Chou like it did for martial-arts master Bruce Lee