Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for strong language, sexual content, drug use, and some crude humor
Running Time: 87 min.

Cast: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neal Patrick Harris, Paula Garces, David Krumholtz, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Sandy Jobin-Bevans, Ethan Embry, Christopher Merloni, Siu Ta, Malin Akerman, Fred Willard, Ryan Reynolds, Steve Braun, Gary Anthony Williams, Jamie Kennedy, Anthony Anderson
Director: Danny Leiner

Screenplay: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Review published August 1, 2004

Somewhat critic-proof, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is the kind of movie that will probably be appreciated the more closely aligned with being a pothead you tend to be, and if you're baked yourself while watching it, it may be the funniest film you've seen since...the last time you were high watching a movie.  It's the kind of movie one can't really gauge by the usual standards, just by how funny you find it, and opinions will widely vary depending on the viewer's aptitude to laugh at pot humor and crude bathroom and sex jokes of the most outrageous variety.  It's a "Get together with your friends and have a good time" film through and through, so if you're looking for something in that mode already, it's like the White Castle restaurant itself, ready to serve whenever you get that craving.

In this film, Harold (John Cho, Better Luck Tomorrow) and Kumar (Kal Penn, Van Wilder) are roommates.  Harold is a worry wart when it comes to his fledgling career and his love life, too afraid to stand up for what he believes, afraid of confrontations.  Kumar is just the opposite, never really taking responsibility seriously, or caring what others think of his behavior.  The do share one common trait -- they both love the ganja.  One night, they decide to kick back on the couch and get zooted, but a commercial for White Castle gives them a hellacious munchie attack that won't subside until they get several dozen of these sliders in their stomachs.  They both hit the road vowing that no other burger will do, but the nearest location is about a 45 minute drive away, and on this particular night, nothing seems to quite be going right, as they meet the most eccentric and dangerous assortment of people along the way.

As dumb "road trip" comedies go, Harold & Kumar goes through predictable motions, with fart scenes, embarrassing sexual situations, bad drug trips, and cameo appearances galore.  What makes it a cut above others that came before it is the ethnic make-up of the two stars, very unique in the world of not only lowbrow comedies, but movies in general.  While everyone else plays for stereotype, Harold and Kumar are surprisingly well developed characters, never really falling into the usual trappings of being completely dumb or nerdy.  This also gives the movie a fair amount of not-too-heavy-handed social commentary, making Harold and Kumar look like the good guys, and racist idiots who antagonize them are very un-cool jerks.

While there is a predictability to it all, where Harold and Kumar scores points is in the delivery, which is sometimes so outlandishly random, you can't help but smile.  It's one of the most audience interactive films you're likely to see this year, as you'll laugh, cheer, wince, and retch from beginning to end.  The running time is short, but when it comes to talking about it with your friends at work or school the next day, there's a lot of mileage to be had here.  It's not great filmmaking by any stretch, but if you're among the film's target audience, this is an instant cult classic.

- Followed by Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008).

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo