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'Green Hornet', 'Dilemma' Prove Bromance Is Dead

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Seth Rogen, Jay Chou i

A Superheroic Friendship: After his media-mogul father dies, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) uses the family's fortune -- and chauffeur, Kato (Jay Chou), -- to become The Green Hornet, a masked crime fighter. Jaimie Trueblood/Columbia Pictures hide caption

toggle caption Jaimie Trueblood/Columbia Pictures
Seth Rogen, Jay Chou

A Superheroic Friendship: After his media-mogul father dies, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) uses the family's fortune -- and chauffeur, Kato (Jay Chou), -- to become The Green Hornet, a masked crime fighter.

Jaimie Trueblood/Columbia Pictures

The Green Hornet

  • Director: Michel Gondry
  • Genre: Action
  • Running Time: 108 minutes

Rated PG-13 for violence, language, and drug content

With: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson

The Green Hornet and The Dilemma are big-budget male buddy pictures — the first a semi-satirical action movie, the second a comedy that turns serious. Both are well made. And both are tiresome. Because folks, the bromance motif, in which grown men wrestle with their masculinity while acting like juveniles, has been wrung dry.

The Green Hornet at least is likable, a refreshing change from all those heavy, angst-ridden superhero movies. The director is Michel Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a virtuoso at making childish fantasies take wing. And I'm not the first to notice a Bob Hope-Bing Crosby road-movie vibe between the two stars, Seth Rogen (as Britt Reid, aka The Green Hornet) and Jay Chou (the kung fu master Kato), who are both smitten with Cameron Diaz in the Dorothy Lamour role.

Rogen's Britt is a ne'er-do-well rich kid, the son of a disapproving media mogul played by Tom Wilkinson, who dies suddenly. It's all quite Oedipal: In a prologue, the father tears the head off his son's superhero doll; the Green Hornet persona is born when Britt and Kato, who was his dad's assistant, blowtorch the head off a statue of Britt's father. Their superhero gimmick is that they'll pretend to be bad guys but really fight criminals. And Britt wants them to be best buds.

The Hope-Crosby thing might work better if the quips were fresh and Chou was more comfortable with English. He speaks as if he learned it phonetically, and unlike Bruce Lee's Kato in the old TV show, he talks a lot. Both for PC reasons and because Chou is a big star in the all-important Asian market, Kato refuses to be Britt's sidekick. So he and Rogen trade lame insults while fighting off bad guys.

(From left) Geneva (Winona Ryder), Beth (Jennifer Connelly), Ronny (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Kevin James) star in Ron Howard's goofy bromance, "The Dilemma." i

(From left) Geneva (Winona Ryder), Beth (Jennifer Connelly), Ronny (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Kevin James) star in Ron Howard's goofy bromance, The Dilemma. Universal Pictures hide caption

toggle caption Universal Pictures
(From left) Geneva (Winona Ryder), Beth (Jennifer Connelly), Ronny (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Kevin James) star in Ron Howard's goofy bromance, "The Dilemma."

(From left) Geneva (Winona Ryder), Beth (Jennifer Connelly), Ronny (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Kevin James) star in Ron Howard's goofy bromance, The Dilemma.

Universal Pictures

The Dilemma

  • Director: Ron Howard
  • Genre: Action
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving sexual content

With: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly

There are a few neat trick shots in which Kato moves at a different speed than his slo-mo adversaries, and a couple of good 3-D effects, like the split screens in which each frame is at a different spatial level. But it's not worth the 3-D glasses surcharge: There's little in The Green Hornet that jumps out at you.

But it's The Dilemma that really lies there, paralyzed by its seriousness. It's about two unemployed best friends, veterans of the auto industry. Vince Vaughn's Ronny is a can-do manager, while Kevin James' Nick is the brilliant engineer. Vaughn cooks up a scheme to land a meeting with a big car company, and after it works they meet up at a crowded bar — with Jennifer Connelly as Vaughn's girlfriend, Beth, and Winona Ryder as James' wife, Geneva — to celebrate.

These fleshy guys, one tall, one short and round, have a quintessential manly male project. In a scene that drew considerable advance criticism, Vaughn's Ronny says electric cars are "totally gay" and proposes a new variation — a responsible, energy-efficient car that makes loud vroom-vroom noise like the old Fords and Dodges. Like we need more road noise in this world.

But The Dilemma turns on the women. Ronny spies Geneva smooching another guy — played by Channing Tatum with a lot of tattoos — and is torn. Should he tell his buddy and shatter him, and maybe ruin the project on which everything in their lives rides? Or should he keep it a secret for now? His contortions, moral and physical, occupy the next 90 minutes.

Maybe the late Blake Edwards could have found a balance between slapstick and psychodrama, but director Ron Howard can't get the pacing right. Vaughn has a couple of very funny scenes, and Ryder a good demonic glint, but the movie drags, and its supposedly central problem — the invention of that noisy engine — ends up being a nonissue.

The Dilemma comes down, finally, to whether Ronny can help Nick recover his masculine pride, symbolized by a scene in a pro hockey arena in which Nick competes to slap a puck into a slot. Even Freud would roll his eyes and tell the filmmakers to grow up.

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