This is another dismal winter weekend for movie buffs as only two new films open up in theatres. Opening this week, Seth Rogen and Jay Chou star in the action-comedy, The Green Hornet; plus Vince Vaughn and Kevin James try to laugh it up in the weak Ron Howard comedy, The Dilemma.
Everything old is new again as Hollywood dredges its past for valuable ideas, so it only makes sense that as superheroes of all shapes and sizes make it to the big screen, someone decided it was time to revive the action-comedy known as The Green Hornet.
In director Michel Gondry’s modernized adaptation, Seth Rogen stars as Britt Reid, a rich party boy who has to grow up when his father dies and Britt is left to take control of the family media empire. Recognizing the seedy underbelly of the city, and within his own company, Britt teams up with one of his more unique employees, the creative Kato, played by Jay Chou, to fight crime by going under cover as criminals themselves.
Acting as vigilantes, the Green Hornet, as Britt dubs himself, and his sidekick Kato, build a high-tech, gadget-enhanced car called the Black Beauty, and start planning their ultimate goal: to take down the Russian mobster Benjamin Chudnofsky, played by Christoph Waltz, and ruin the thugs goal of uniting the major criminals of Los Angeles.
The real oddity of The Green Hornet is that it was directed by the artistically-minded Gondry, who previously helmed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind, the documentary Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, and numerous award-winning music videos. Even next to Eternal Sunshine, The Green Hornet is the filmmaking equivalent of slumming it for Gondry, and it seems kind of hard to imagine why he would take on the project, aside from the chance to turn himself into a successful commercial director.
It’s also hard, at least from my point of view, to imagine Rogen as any kind of superhero, although much like the original television series, which starred Bruce Lee as Kato, the sidekick is definitely the one responsible for kicking butt.
Based on the critical consensus, the film is not a complete waste of time, but it is a serious nose-dive for director Michel Gondry.
“As directed by Michel Gondry,” wrote Claudia Puig for USA Today, “Hornet’s visuals have a few pixilated flourishes. But the production design is more cluttered than eye-catching, and the near-pointless use of 3-D simply muddies the photography.”
While Andrew O’Hehir of Salon.com praised the film, writing, “I’m pleased to report that the movie is entirely watchable and often pretty fun, in a mishmashed, patchy kind of way. Put that on your poster, Columbia Pictures!”
The other directorial nose dive of the week, or maybe even the year, comes from the famed Ron Howard, who helms The Dilemma with stars Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, and Winona Ryder.
Vaughn plays Ronny, a happy bachelor who has been through it all with his best friend Nick, played by James. Since becoming friends in college, the duo have become partners in an auto design firm, and they’re working hard to launch their company that needs one major project to really kick start the business.
Trouble brews when Ronny spots Nick’s wife Geneva, played by Ryder, out with another man, and he makes it his business to find out what’s going on, and whether his best friend is about to have his heart broken. Ronny will just have to decide if it’s better to break the news to Nick, or hide the truth.
Obviously the most comic thing about the plot might be that Ryder plays Kevin James’ wife, which is the most unlikely pairing in recent memory, but the film is getting reviews that suggest The Dilemma is anything but funny. It’s also possibly the worst film that Howard has been involved with for a long, long time (although I’d personally suggest his worst film would have to be A Beautiful Mind).
“The true dilemma of this misguided seriocomedy,” wrote Justin Chang of Variety, “lies in the filmmakers’ confusion as to whether they’re making a side-splitting bromance (nope) or an unsparing, warts-and-all look at screwed-up relationships (sort of).”
And Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News wrote in his review, “The real dilemma in the sadly unfunny “The Dilemma” is that several different movies are going on in director Ron Howard’s first nondrama in 11 years.”
Perhaps this quick foray into comedy just proves that Howard needs to stick to dramas, but it might also equally prove that films need more than great directors, they also need great scripts, which The Dilemma clearly missed out on.