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Posted at 11:40 AM ET, 01/14/2011

'The Green Hornet': Was the bad buzz misleading?

By Jen Chaney

Chou and Rogen, attempting to avoid a bomb in more ways than one. (Sony Pictures)

"The Green Hornet" had all the potential to be one of the biggest superhero stinkers of all time.

The project was in development for many years, and got passed from writer to writer and actor to actor until it finally got made.

The release date for the Seth Rogen movie was moved six times, with the last switch taking it from a confidence-building December time slot to a "wow, this must belong in the trash heap" January date.

And, perhaps most distressing of all, at Comic-Con last summer, hundreds of geek-movie fans -- essentially the flick's prime demographic -- walked out in the middle of a "Hornet" panel after watching some initial footage. Walked. Out. While Rogen was still talking.

So it's no surprise that the advance buzz on this one was wretched. But is "Green Hornet," which finally, after all that drama, arrives in theaters today, really as bad as everyone thought? The answer is no, but with some definite qualifications.

First, let me be clear: "The Green Hornet" is not a great movie. It's not even a particularly good movie. Our heroes, Britt Reid -- a.k.a. the Green Hornet (Rogen) -- and Kato (Jay Chou) lack any compelling sense of purpose, other than to stand around cracking jokes while occasionally making like Kick-Ass and engaging in vigilante justice. Cameron Diaz looks like she just tripped and fell into frame without any sense of her character's motivations, which, in her defense, don't seem to have been carefully considered much beyond "be hot." And the 3-D is superfluous at best, and massively distracting at worst. (Lesson learned from "The Green Hornet": No one needs to see the newsroom of a daily metropolitan newspaper in multiple dimensions.)

In short, it's kind of a mess. But -- and this "but" is important -- it's not nearly as much of a mess as it seemed like it might be. For example, there's a cameo appearance in the beginning of the film by a friend and former co-star of Rogen's that almost justifies the price of admission. (We kind of love the guy here in Celebritology ... hmmm, wonder if you can guess who he is?) And some of Michel Gondry's quirky directing choices, like his use of hyperspeed to reflect Reid's hard-partying ways -- actually work.

Plus audiences and some (though hardly all) critics seem to like it. Here in The Washington Post, Dan Kois gave the movie three stars in what is one of the funnier reviews of a superhero movie that I have read in a long while. On Rotten Tomatoes, its score is 44 percent fresh; not fantastic by any standards but better than "The Dilemma," whose freshness-rating stands at a much lower 21 percent.

So what's my point? My point is that bad buzz sometimes suggests that a movie is in-the-basement bad when it's really just okay-to-watch-at-2 a.m.-on-cable bad. A subtle difference, maybe, but enough of a difference that all of us -- writers and moviegoers alike -- should try to keep an open mind about a film before we send it to the equivalent of Multiplex Death Row.

When I walked out after "The Green Hornet" screening the other night -- the same screening, for what it's worth, that prompted Kois to give the movie three stars -- I overheard another fellow critic loudly declaring that he'd just seen the worst movie of 2011.

First of all, this seemed more than a little hyperbolic. Thanks to "Season of the Witch," "The Green Hornet" isn't even the worst movie to come out in the past two weeks, let alone this year.

Second, I prefer to be more optimistic than that. While I respect my fellow professional filmgoer's opinion, I have absolute, unwavering faith that a flick far more wretched than "The Green Hornet" will be released in theaters before 2011 ends. In fact, I can just about guarantee it.

By Jen Chaney  | January 14, 2011; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  Comic-Con, Movies, Pop Culture  
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Something as iconic as The Green Hornet, shouldn't have been made as an action/comedy movie. I like Rogen, but this isn't his part. I have no problem watching the DVD, but I won't be paying theater prices on this one.

Posted by: blarsen1 | January 14, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Gosh - what is there to like about this mess. Kenneth Turan nailed it with his review on NPR this morning...

Posted by: gvanderlek | January 14, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Green Hornet can't be the worst movie of 2011:

Arch Campbell gave Country Strong 0 stars. I don't remember what it was, but Green Hornet got at least something.

Posted by: JLRGG | January 14, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Who cares about the Green Hornet? Definitely a minor comic book hero.

So many crappy movies. Maybe 1 in 10 are good.

Posted by: TaxiDriver | January 14, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Stunning recommendation:
"Not the Worst Movie of 2011!"

Posted by: leaping_gnome | January 14, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Too bad the producers were either too inept or gutless to treat the subject with anything but B-grade shtick. Instead of making a movie that would have put anything in the genre in the shade, they flaked out.
If, God forbid, I should ever feel a need for campy schlock, I'll inoculate myself with a few minutes of the Batman television series re-runs.
For shame, guys. Perhaps someone will come along, re-do it and show you how not to take a hosing at the box office. Stranger things have happened.

Posted by: jbksss | January 14, 2011 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Compare the NPR review to Mr. Bois' "funny" "review" and you can see the difference between a useful review and a waste of time. I guess all the good writers at WaPo took the buyouts.

Posted by: gbooksdc | January 14, 2011 9:21 PM | Report abuse

The Green Hornet is a real stinker--not worth seeing, not worth talking about.

Posted by: Maurice10 | January 14, 2011 10:16 PM | Report abuse

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