CONTAINZZZZZ ZZZZZPOILERZZZZZ *SPLAT* (AS HIT WITH A COPY OF THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, INCLUDING SUPPLEMENTS)
In a heavily customised and supposedly cool black car, which is kitted out with enough gizmos and gadgets and laser-targeted missiles to start a medium-sized war, sits our fearless Masked Avenger: a multi-billionaire with father issues who adopts a secret mystical identity to fight crime alongside his similarly masked associate. But it's not Batman. Nor is he Superman or Spiderman: he has no superpowers and no armour. In fact as superheroes go, he's a bit rubbish and leaves most of the actual fighting to his martial-artist sidekick, and when he's not being the awesome vigilante he's a monumental tosser. Maybe that's the point: he is played by Seth Rogen.
Daddy didn't pay him enough attention when he was a child: he'd got a newspaper empire to run and corruption to expose, so Britt Reid (Rogen) grows up as an unloved wastrel, partying and boozing the nights away. But when the old man (Tom Wilkinson, the film's only note of dignity) dies, Britt inherits the newspaper and more by accident than design, becomes The Green Hornet. With his trusty companion Cato (Jay Chou - in the role played in the original TV series by Bruce Lee, who gets an injoke nod) he excitedly adopts the role, though he hasn't got a clue what he's doing or how to go about it. Ranged against him are the smarmy District Attorney and the most unspeakably (deliberately so) rubbish crime lord imaginable (Christoph Waltz). Can The Green Hornet clear up the city's crime problem, unmask the villains and cop off with his new secretary (Cameron Diaz)?
Not really. Oh, sure, these particular villains get their just desserts, although they aren't unmasked: rather, they unmask themselves in a final 20-minute orgy of senseless chasing and shooting and fighting and wholesale destruction. And Cameron Diaz quite rightly looks at Rogen and sees only a spoiled, immature, charmless oaf. Frankly The Green Hornet is nobody's champion - yes, I know he's supposed to be a masked vigilante pretending to be a masked villain, but whatever guise he's adopting, he's fundamentally unlikeable. I've never heard the original radio serial or seen the original TV series (incidentally the Billy May theme to the TV show gets a brief airing) but I can't believe that the concept has lasted this long if the hero was such a knob.
And if it's some kind of a spoof it's not remotely amusing, and far too long at nearly two hours, with action and fight scenes that appear to go on forever. There are some nice stylistic touches from time to time - it's directed by Michel Gondry - but at an estimated budget of $120 million it's bloated and overblown, it's no fun, and CGI'd up the wazoo (the IMDb lists no less than 570 people in the visual effects department alone). While originally shot flat, it was only released in cinemas in a converted 3D version, which I refused to see (if it's filmed in 2D I want to watch it in 2D) but suspect would have added nothing to the project except bringing on the headaches a little earlier. But overall it's a pretty comprehensive failure and doesn't work at all.