Movie Review: The Green Hornet

★★★☆☆

The Green Hornet is no work of cinematic art by any means, but it is a fun and pulpy popcorn flick that's equal parts epic action and sidesplitting hilarity.

The opening sequence is arguably the best scene in the film. James Franco, in an uncredited but riotous cameo as up-and-coming crime lord Danny "Crystal" Cleer, kicks off the midlife crisis of underworld kingpin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) by telling the aging criminal that he's gotten boring.

Enter Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), a wealthy playboy who inherits his father's media estate.  Realizing how much potential he's wasted, Britt teams up with his father's mysterious coffee-maker/mechanic Kato (Jay Chou) to fight crime.

Britt realizes that comic book superheroes fail because their concern for civilians can be used against them. He and Kato decide to circumvent this problem by posing as villains, left to clean up the streets unhindered. When Chudnofsky tires of their "crime" spree, however, Britt and Kato begin to realize the gravity of what they've begun.

The Green Hornet exhibits originality both in its playful, campy tone and in its content – after all, how many superhero teams feature a sidekick who kicks more butt than the hero? While many reviewers have lamented the film's departure from its gritty source material, it would have been hard for Green Hornet, with its many parallels to Batman and Iron Man, to compete with similar films on their own turf.

The shorter fight sequences were riveting and fast-paced, but there were a few brawls, like Britt's ridiculously drawn-out beat down with Kato, which pushed the limits of watch-ability. The destruction in the final battle is so over the top that it stopped making sense after the fifth explosion.

Rogen and Chou create a delightful, if inconsistent, bromance in their roles as Britt and Kato, though sometimes Rogen's Britt is too conceited to be even mildly likable. Cameron Diaz falls a little flat as the token headstrong female Lenore, and generally lacks the fresh enthusiasm of her co-stars.

Waltz is the real highlight with his brilliantly screwy performance as Chudnofsky, dominating every scene with casual, soft-spoken insanity.

The 3-D is subtle to the point that it seems almost unnecessary. While no one will mourn the age of gimmicky 3-D eye pokes, it seems a little silly to pay more for what's essentially become a sharper picture.

In short, The Green Hornet is an enjoyable flick full of shiny cars, slick costumes and flaming explosions. And honestly, there's nothing wrong with that as long as you enjoy it for what it is.