The Green Hornet: Nice Buzz, No Sting

Rogen, who has lost weight but still doesn’t look like he spends a lot of time in kickboxing classes, has the kind of charisma to make this foolhardy character likeable. Britt is constantly talking up his grandiose plans and his boundless self-esteem in a hip-hop inflected idiot’s patter. “You said my outfit was pimp!” he protests to Kato, in one of many highly quotable lines. Remember how sweet Austin Powers was when he tried to be cool? Britt has the same quality.

Meanwhile, the mild but lethal Waltz character moans that no one thinks he’s scary (he has a hilarious scene with Rogen’s buddy James Franco, as a nightclub boss). “I think you’re having a midlife crisis,” one of his henchmen tells him. Just to perk up his own flagging spirits as the Green Hornet grabs all the glory, he decides to become a supervillain and take on the hero on the latter’s own terms.

The film, which is being shown in a sometimes murky 3D, combines splendid visuals with chaotic action sequences (the climax, which contrasts cubicle-drone office life with shootouts and car chases, is reminiscent of The Blues Brothers). Gondry has a painterly way of framing images to make them shine and adds a dazzling new twist to 3D filmmaking during a sequence when he splits the screen into half a dozen or more panels showing competing images -- then makes some panels pop out of the screen at different depths. At times Gondry’s visuals are so striking that you lose track of what people are saying onscreen.

That would be a shame, because Rogen’s motormouth stream of B.S. is at least as funny as it was in Pineapple Express, a bright movie that overstayed its welcome and got bogged down in an overly complicated climax. Like that movie, The Green Hornet gets a little too fond of smashing stuff up in the closing act, but even so it’s a wicked and original treat, a welcome piece of comic mayhem to warm up the winter.