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Video: ‘Hornet’s’ Rogen feels the burn on TODAY

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    >> calorie counts. take a look at this.

    >> mine isn't working.

    >> because it's all about about -- let's see, let's see. here it comes. come on! it's never good. just keep your eye on it. it is like the lotto.

    >> in the meantime, comic star seth rogan had theatergoers laughing all the way to their cars in movies like "knocked up" and " super bad ."

    >> he's in the new 3-d action comedy feature "the green hornet ."

    >> i want you to take my hand, i want you to come with me on this adventure.

    >> i go with you but yi don't want to touch but.

    >> you don't have to take my hand but will you come with me on this adventure?

    >> he's here.

    >> i have to hand it to you, seth . you're on the bike.

    >> i did it. you guys are on the bike. the seat's a little wobbly.

    >> i'm a little worried about your seat. careful. i'm going with it.

    >> you had to become and action star in your own right to play this role. did you have to get into training and all that stuff?

    >> i did. i did exactly what you see right now for 14 hours a day, for six years.

    >> is there a six-pack under there?

    >> there's no six-pack under here. it would take me quite a while. how are you guys doing?

    >> we're doing well.

    >> you guys are really going for it.

    >> i can't believe i'm losing at this game. seth , so you play a super hero .

    >> i do.

    >> do you enjoy that role? does that role fit?

    >> i do. as you can see, i'm very physically competent and graceful and coordinated so --

    >> i love the little fist thing you got going.

    >> it replicates running more. that's the thing.

    >> i think people in the gym should try it this way. it is much better.

    >> people pay a lot of money.

    >> tell us about the young man that plays cato.

    >> a guy named jay chow who is a taiwanese superstar. he says he is the taiwanese usher. i think he is more like the taiwanese justin timberlake crossed with the taiwanese robert de niro . he's amazing, he six, he dancngs, he dances, he acts. martial arts . you guys are in good shape. i'm seriously getting out of breath.

    >> we like you like that.

    >> you have some personal news. you got engaged.

    >> thank you very much. i appreciate it.

    >> tell us about this lady that said this is the one i'm going to smend my life with.

    >> she's just so nice to me.

    >> first one you found that really loves you. huh?

    >> yeah. we've been together six years.

    >> how did you propose to her?

    >> i proposed to her in our closet while she was changing.

    >> that's so romantic.

    >> in her pajamas. yes, i guess it was. then we ate buffalo wings .

    >> that's about the most romantic thing i've ever heard.

    >> 27 calories, guys.

    >> mine's not showing.

    >> i just want to say one thing. can you put our calorie counts? on this money mine says 103. on that it says -- 122. excellent! i think you're right, tammy.

    >> i got 121.

    >> i have nothing because mine says nothing.

    >> you're 121.

    >> i guess this is a big brush, seth . but we appreciate you coming. all the best with the movie. it opens tonight, right?

    >> yeah no. it opens january 14th .

    >> oh, next week. it's in 3-d.

    >> the third-dimension.

IMAGE: Green Hornet
Columbia Pictures
Seth Rogen and Jay Chou star as Britt Reid and Kato in "The Green Hornet." Some fans, though, are concerned that the jovial Rogen won't take the film seriously.
TODAY contributor
updated 1/7/2011 9:26:01 AM ET 2011-01-07T14:26:01

Director Michel Gondry caused a ruckus in superhero land not long ago when he lashed out at critics of his new film, “The Green Hornet.” It seems not everyone was thrilled with the casting of Seth Rogen in the title role, not to mention the film's overall jokey approach to the material.

“I usually identify with the nerds, but these ones just reinforce the social rules," Gondry said of the complainers. "Their values are fascistic. All those people marching around in capes and masks and boots. The superhero imagery is totally fascist!"

With the jovial Rogen aboard as publishing scion turned hero Britt Reid, this Green Hornet is a true comic. He’s amiable rather than awesome. Although some weaponry and fighting is required, Rogen’s interpretation — he is also one of four credited writers on the film, which was a passion project of his for four years — is a mash-up of comedy and action. It isn’t a unique blend, but the presence of Rogen — whose most notable role came in the 2007 Judd Apatow comedy “Knocked Up” — signals immediately that a relatively high goofball quotient exists.

Video: Watch 'The Green Hornet' trailer (on this page)

“I think what we’re seeing in so many superhero movies that stands out is that they’re being cast against type,” noted Thom Geier, senior editor at Entertainment Weekly. “Certainly in the case of Seth Rogen you won’t see him on the cover of Men’s Health for his six-pack abs, but he will catch the attention of people tired of the standard issue superhero type.”

Legions of Green Hornet devotees descended upon Comic-Con in July to see an extended trailer of the film and hear Rogen lead a panel discussion. For the most part, the session was received well, although some of the jokes didn’t work as effectively as they might in the film, and there was definitely a disgruntled segment of fans unhappy with the project.

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Robert Falconer, founder and executive editor of cinemaspy.com, seemed to represent some of those befuddled masses when he wrote back in March: “Ridiculing Seth Rogen’s ‘Green Hornet’ movie has become almost de rigueur among both fans and journos alike. And yes, we’ve engaged in the practice ourselves, doubting Thomases that we are. Something about the idea of funny-man Seth Rogen playing Britt Reid, aka Green Hornet, just strikes us as the worst example of miscasting.”

Falconer expanded on those sentiments after viewing more material, although he notes that he can't give a complete assessment without seeing the entire film.

“I can tell you from what I have seen from all the clips that have been released that it looks like the film might be a lot of fun,” he said. “My concern stems from a couple of things: Back in the ‘60s, producer William Dozier did both ‘Batman’ and ‘The Green Hornet’ (on television). ‘Batman’ was always done for camp. But ‘Green Hornet’ was played seriously. I think it was understood he was posing as a villain but was really a hero. When I heard Seth had chosen to take on the character, I was not sure how familiar he was with the source material and why he decided to go for a comic approach.

Video: ‘Hornet’s’ Rogen feels the burn on TODAY (on this page)

“There’s been a tendency in recent years to remake stuff from the ‘60s and ‘70s and give it a campy twist. … I would have preferred to see ‘Green Hornet’ handled more seriously. That’s not to say the film won’t be fun. But after seeing so many movies treated irreverently that don’t work, my natural tendency is to worry about how it’s going to come out.”

James Berardinelli of reelviews.net wonders not so much about Rogen’s presence but rather his ability. “The problem may not be that he's an atypical action hero, but whether he has the acting chops to carry it off,” he said. “If I was to ask, ‘Which of the following names doesn't fit? (a) Bale, (b) Downey, (c) Craig, (d) Rogen,’ it wouldn't take much effort to come up with an answer.

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“Rogen has never struck me as an actor with much range. He's a solid comedian but can he handle the dramatic aspects of the character he's playing? Can he do what Bruce Willis accomplished 23 years ago (in “Die Hard”)? Or will his performance feel forced and fatuous? Will he turn ‘The Green Hornet’ into a joke? Can we lose sight of the fact that he's Seth Rogen? Therein lies the key to whether or not he'll succeed and, by extension, whether ‘The Green Hornet’ will succeed. This is not an A-list superhero film by any stretch of the imagination. It needs a tremendous star turn by Rogen to do more than win its first weekend box office, then get buried in subsequent weeks.”

Video: Rogen, like Hornet, stinks at driving (on this page)

Still, “The Green Hornet” came away from that costumed focus group at Comic-Con, with mostly positive buzz, thanks largely to the presence of a smaller, slimmer Rogen. And there does seem to be anticipation for the movie.

“Seth brings a more comic sensibility to the character,” Geier said. “It’s not grounded in realism. He decided to camp it up and take it over the top, to make the Green Hornet a sardonic hero. That makes sense, and fits Seth’s reputation and persona.

“For the last 10 years somebody has been trying to get a ‘Green Hornet’ film off the ground. At various times people like George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Jake Gyllenhaal were attached. Because there are so many superhero movies, Seth decided to do a completely different take on it, to have him be an average Joe. That was a different, and smart, take on this.”

Actually, the superhero in films has been evolving before Rogen ever donned a green outfit. Tobey Maguire in the “Spider-Man” series? Robert Downey Jr. in the “Iron Man” films? They didn’t fit the archetype, although audiences didn’t care. Then there's Hugh Jackman in the “X-Men” films, who does. And Ryan Reynolds in the upcoming “Green Lantern,” who might fall somewhere in between.

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“The idea of the superhero has become much broader than it used to be,” explained Geoff Boucher, entertainment columnist for the Los Angeles Times who also contributes to “The Hero Complex,” the paper’s Web site devoted to hero worship of the fun kind.

Video: Rogen: 'Green Hornet' is 'really exciting!' (on this page)

“Now there are a lot more colors and tints to it,” he added. “At one time, it was somebody like Christopher Reeve (“Superman”), or George Reeves (the “Adventures of Superman” TV series of the 1950s). Now you have satirical superheroes, sly superheroes, troubled superheroes, failed superheroes. It’s a much wider spectrum.”

Boucher is decidedly pro-Rogen for this “Green Hornet,” arguing that diversity in the superhero community is not only tolerated but celebrated.

Story: Generic 'Green Hornet' has no sting

“You can have people as different as a Hugh Jackman or a Christian Bale or a Will Smith, filling in these different parts of the spectrum,” he said. “There’s absolutely room for the Seth Rogen hero. If you go all the way back to 1966 and superhero Adam West (star of the “Batman” TV series), Seth is more West than he is Hugh Jackman.”

And audiences today tend to be drawn in mostly by the spectacle, Boucher noted. “Superheroes have always been big, since they started,” he said. “I think it’s more about using the visual effects to bring the stories to the movie screen more than anything else.”

Michael Ventre is a frequent contributor to TODAYshow.com.

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