When Seth Rogen announced he would write and star in a movie version of "The Green Hornet" comics, we laughed: Superstoner! When he began dropping pounds for the role, we grew concerned: The whole point of Rogen is that he isn't Tobey Maguire. And when semisurrealist director Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") signed on, we drew a blank: Huh? What is this movie trying to be?
Even after sitting through it, you won't have an answer. Part origin story, part spoof, part bromance - the movie can't decide. It winks at itself constantly, but only to hide its cluelessness.
Rogen plays Britt Reid, an irresponsible playboy who inherits The Daily Sentinel after the death of his hard-nosed father, James (Tom Wilkinson). In his now-empty mansion, Britt meets house staffer Kato (Jay Chou, a charming Taiwanese actor making his U.S. debut), who happens to be a martial-arts expert and inventor of Bond-quality weaponry. Britt can barely throw a punch, but the new friends decide to don masks, fight crime and bring down Los Angeles' most ruthless mobster, Chudnofksy (a squandered Christoph Waltz).
Rogen and longtime co-writer Evan Goldberg keep trying to upend the superhero genre: What if the Green Hornet were a doofus? What if he and Kato fought over the girl (Cameron Diaz)? What if the movie replaced earnest comic-book dialogue with flippant dude-speak? Gondry's distinctively odd touches (stretched-out backgrounds, cartoonish action) and the pointless 3-D effects only throw everything further off balance.
One thing about superhero movies: At least they have compelling characters and plots. But everyone here was too clever to think of that.