Neal Vitale's Oscar Picks

Green Hornet (The)

3.5 stars out of 5

(The extra length of this review comes about because it is shared with the excellent USC site, the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture. I am the author of its movie review page.)

It used to be said that the mark of a true intellectual was the ability to listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger; similarly, you were pretty cultures it you could hear Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee and not think of the Ranger's sibling program, The Green Hornet. It has been so long since either was on radio or television that the test is no longer valid. In fact, most people under 40 haven't heard either selection.

Anyway, people of a certain vintage will remember the Green Hornet radio program from NBC and the Mutual Radio Network; people of my vintage will remember the television show from the 60s. But no one remembers a Green Hornet like this. Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg adapted the Green Hornet, officially created by lawyer George W. Trendle (who bought out co-creators writer Fran Striker and director James Jewell). Those with long memories will recall that Britt Reid (a nephew of Dan Reid, the Lone Ranger) was a newspaper publisher by day, crime-fighter by night, assisted by his faithful driver Kato. Rogen plays with the myth, making Reid the wastrel son of a newspaper publisher, and Kato the brains of the outfit--a lovely old show-business trope, used to great effect in such films as Gene Wilder's 1975 comedy The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. Although the New Yorker, among other outlets, savagely trashed the film, I found it amusing and clever. Rogen slimmed down quite a bit for the role, and while he plays a fool, he isn't an utter fool. Cameron Diaz is eye candy in a few scenes, most likely to reduce the risk of the bromance being considered insufficiently manly. Alas, Rogen can't quite bring himself to stop playing immature men.

This is what I call a journalism movie! Lots of scenes in the newspaper office, including the editorial offices and the press room. There are front page meetings, and discussions of journalistic ethics. Reid's job as the publisher, successor to his father, is not incidental to the proceedings, it is critical. Alas, there hasn't been a newspaper in a building this big or offices this nice in some time (outside of the New York Times, the price of whose new building is one of the factors strangling it). But someday, when all the newspaper are gone, some of the scenes in this film will serve to remind us of bygone glory. There are one or two throwaway lines about "these difficult times for newspapers," but if you go with the visuals, rather than the dialog, you'd think print publications were still minting money. My daughter remarked, at the end of the film, "Wait, you mean they want us to think his family got rich owning a newspaper? How?"