<strong>WILD RIDE:</strong> Seth Rogen (right) and Jay Chou play a crime-fighting duo with an arsenal of hi-tech gizmos at their disposal in this weird and funny revamp of <em>The Green Hornet</em>.

When did the nation’s film critics—who used to be reliably pasty, nicotine-stained night owls with bad coffee breath and Godard quotations a-ready, who used to be on the lookout for new cinematic vistas—turn into the imagination-challenged pack that’s beating up this film?

Forget what you’ve heard, because The Green Hornet is only tedious if you come to it with X-Men-clouded blockbuster expectations. As you might expect from director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Hornet is weird, funny, and sometimes brilliant. And since when is that a bad thing? A recycle, certainly, but it’s still full of surprises, like the inversion of heroism roles, shifting from the Hornet (played by Seth Rogen as a self-centered party animal) to Kato (played by Jay Chou in what can be seen either as a hat tip to Bruce Lee or an opportunity to re-create the goofy hero/sidekick dynamics of The Pink Panther films). The film doesn’t deconstruct the masked superhero shtick (though there are homoerotic jokes galore) as much as it satirizes manufactured camp; it’s a comic hall-of-mirrors.

But you don’t have to be a film nerd to like this. Just come armed with a good sense of humor. Gondry, who collaborated with Rogen, displays an arsenal of visual inventions: psychedelic fight scenes, a car going up a glass elevator with tail-out spraying mayhem, a lovely montage of street action on a divided 3-D screen, hypnotic in its cinematic pop. And then there are the chase scenes across Los Angeles from South Central to Century City.

Maybe Gondry’s Hornet isn’t an instant classic, or as jaw-droppingly funny as the reviewers love to cliché, but it doesn’t deserve the bewildered drubbing it’s getting from men and women employed to open your eyes. It’s just fun. And after a movie year as dull as the last one, you all deserve some daffy pleasures.


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