Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Green Hornet (dir. Michel Gondry)

If only more movies were this happy to be alive.

The Green Hornet has had a long, long journey on its way to the screen. Even the version that's playing now nationwide was first announced way back in 2007, and was met with appropriate levels of disbelief. Knocked Up was either just about to come out, or just had, and there were posters everywhere with Seth Rogen giving a big ol' goofy face with the caption "would you let this guy get you pregnant?" And that might be the dumbest tagline ever, but that's sort of besides the point. The point is, for my fellow nerds and I, that the caption might as well have read, "would you let this guy be a superhero?"

But that was only when we knew Seth Rogen, strangely compelling comedic presence, and not when we knew Seth Rogen, comic creative genius. Not too long afterwards, Superbad was released. It ended up making my top ten that year (I believe number seven), and I still stand by that - it's hilarious, oddly touching, and very well directed from a script by Rogen and some guy named Evan Goldberg. When Pineapple Express came out the following year, also written by them, it was official - I'd follow these guys anywhere.

And while The Green Hornet, their latest venture as writers, lacks the tonal and thematic consistency of those films (and when Pineapple Express is more coherent and consistent than the film up for comparison, that's REALLY saying something), it is a much-needed refreshment to the superhero genre. Gone is all the pretense that any of this matters; instead, it's two hours of "holy shit, can you believe they're letting us make a superhero movie?" Francois Truffaut said that a movie must express either the joy or pain of making movies. And that dude made The 400 Blows, so he knows a thing or two about the movies. But we really don't get enough movies about how awesome it is to make movies; The Green Hornet is one of them.

Along the way, they pull some pretty sly moves - namely, that their lead character is an unlikeable, relentless dick, and Seth Rogen plays him all the way. He's an asshole to everyone, though he feels entitled to his position (as heir to a newspaper, millionaire, superhero, womanizer, anything really), and even better, the film does absolutely nothing to punish him for this. He just keeps on going, and there's an implicit trust that we'll get the larger joke, even though it seems many did not. I love that they keep coming back to the fact that neither Britt (Rogen) nor Kato (Jay Chou) really have any idea how to be a superhero. Kato is more than capable of the labor - fighting, constructing, et cetera - but doesn't really understand the process any better than Britt.

Mostly, though, I love the energy Rogen brings to the role (the scene where he hires Cameron Diaz is just the best), and how infectious it proves to the rest of the film. It's an insanely joyful film in its own insane way - it's so far from perfect, but it has personality, something a lot of better films lack. On an even more simple level, I laughed harder than I did at any comedy of last year.

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