'Green Hornet' Lacks Sting

The Green Hornet is back. A career as a crime fighter in both radio and television is in his past, and a new film showcasing his heroics is opening in theaters Friday.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

"The Green Hornet" goes on display in theaters this week, and our critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN: "The Green Hornet" may not be the most tedious superhero movie ever - hey, that competition is pretty tough - but it is certainly in the running.

The Hornet is technically not a superhero at all. Like Batman, The Hornet fights crime from behind a mask with just his ordinary human powers - plus some nifty inventions.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Green Hornet")

Mr. JAY CHOU (Actor): (as Kato) We'll need a car.

Mr. SETH ROGEN (Actor): (as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet) Hells, yes. We'll need a car.

Mr. CHOU: (as Kato) With some weapons.

Mr. ROGEN: (as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet) Hmm.

Mr. CHOU: (as Kato) And armor.

Mr. ROGEN: (as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet) Cool rims. Spinning rims.

Mr. CHOU: (as Kato) I can do that.

Mr. ROGEN: (as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet) Kato, I want you to take my hand. I want you to come with me on this adventure.

TURAN: Invention, however, is what's lacking in this latest version. It stars Seth Rogen as Britt Reid, the wastrel son of a fabulously wealthy and influential newspaper publisher. Those were the days.

An unexpected death shakes Britt up. He teams with Kato, played by Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou, to form a crime-fighting team that is never quite sure what it's doing.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Green Hornet")

Mr. ROGEN: (as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet) Kato, I think this was the greatest moment in my entire life.

Mr. CHOU: (as Kato) I know. Mine, too.

TURAN: Neither director Michel Gondry nor Rogen are obvious go-to guys for this kind of big-budget, action franchise. And they've tried to use their unlikeliness to their advantage. They must have thought: How great to have a hero who doesn't have any powers. Let's make him a bumbling and ineffectual fool into the bargain.

It's a dicey idea, and the attempt to implement it has been ruinous. The script's attempts at tongue-in-cheek humor can't bring even a semblance of life to an enterprise that did itself no favors by converting to 3D late in the game.

The performer who looks really lost in these ruins is Cameron Diaz, playing the woman whose affections the boys ineptly battle each other for. Girls are such a bore, the Hornet proclaims at one point - not as much of a bore, however, as a hornet without its sting.

(Soundbite of "Green Hornet" theme music)

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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