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.

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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.