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green-hornet-onal-the-130071Superhero movies don’t generally get January releases. Typically they’re summer fare, warm weather entertainments catering to teens looking for something cool to pass the school break. But “The Green Hornet” isn’t a typical superhero movie. Directed by French art house favourite Michel Gondry and starring Canadian comedian Seth Rogen, it adds something new to the masked crime fighter genre — whimsy.

An all-star cast, including Rogen, Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz and Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou, headline the updated adventures of the Green Hornet. In this version Britt Reid (Rogen), heir to his late father’s publishing company, enlists martial arts wiz Kato (Jay Chou) to form a masked crime fighting duo. Together they hatch an unusual strategy to help Britt get over his serious daddy issues and take on the leader of the city’s underworld, Russian criminal Benjamin Chudnofsky (Waltz).

“The Green Hornet” has all the elements usually associated with superhero movies — cool gadgets like a car that would make “Knight Rider’s” Kit green with envy, wild action and a dastardly villain — but it also, for better and for worse, has Seth Rogen. Rogen fans will likely take to his slacker party-boy interpretation of Britt Reid — imagine Paris Hilton with chest hair and you get the idea — but I’ll guess there will be more than one “Green Hornet” purist who will find his take on the character somewhat sacrilegious.

He neither really looks like or behaves like the crime fighters we’ve become used to in “Batman” and the like, and if you can get past that there is much to enjoy here. If not, maybe stay home and rent “The Dark Knight.” Again.

On the other hand Jay Chou over-compensates in the hero department. As sidekick and chauffer Kato he’s a cool character with great moves and some of the movie’s best lines, and even pays sly tribute to Bruce Lee, who played the role in the TV series.

Christoph Waltz, the very definition of evil in “Inglorious Basterds,” is suitably evil and seems to be having some fun, but seems to be calibrating his performance more toward the cartoony “Batman” television series villains than his finely crafted (and award winning) Colonel Landa.

Cameron Diaz is fine in the Gwyneth Paltrow “Iron Man” role but is given little to do.

“The Green Hornet” is a more a comedy than action movie — although there are some nice action sequences — brave enough to pay tribute to the original while bringing the story and the characters into Rogen and Gondry’s strange universe.

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