Maybe they should have called it "The Chartreuse Wasp" or something else. Because today's "The Green Hornet" recycles some details, but is unfaithful to the suave essence of that 20th-century cult icon. If you have prior affection for the earnest character, anticipate disappointment. Yet this mildly quirky bit of revisionism isn't a bad attempt at satirizing the superhero genre. By finally mounting a feature about the legendary masked crime fighter, filmmakers retained little. There are broad biographical similarities, plus some of the TV show's 1960s stylishness and tricked-out Chrysler Imperial known as the Black Beauty.

The "Hornet" project has been in Hollywood development for nearly 20 years with cool, manly types like George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Jake Gyllenhaal associated to star at various times. So imagine fan horror when goofy, ungainly Seth Rogan signed up for the lead and to co-write the final version for funky French director Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Be Kind Rewind").

Rogan has contorted "The Green Hornet" to fit his persona, rather than the other way around. He sets the proceedings in a modern Los Angeles with a contemporarily violent crime context. "Inglourious Basterds' " Christoph Waltz repeats (but doesn't add much) to his Oscar-winning villain routine as Benjamin Chudnofsky, kingpin of the city's illegal activity.

'The Green Hornet'
» Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
» Stars: Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz
» Director: Michel Gondry
» Rated PG-13: for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content
» Running Time: 108 minutes

The story starts as a character-focused comic adventure about how slacker Britt Reid learns to man up after the death of his father (Tom Wilkinson), thanks to an eerily gifted mechanic/martial artist Kato (Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou). Britt inherits the role of rich newspaper publisher and accidentally stumbles on the role of vigilante crusader.

Unfortunately, the action devolves toward an over-the-top final act of property destruction and gunfire, a dull clash with glaring logistic boo-boos. When the movie has fun with the upside-down central relationship, between the clownish boss Britt and his dignified employee Kato, it works better. Since these two really love each other most, Cameron Diaz has a thankless role as their female love interest, a secretary/criminologist.

If they had only called this "The Chartreuse Wasp," we might have expected less.