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Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Reviewed By Laura Kyle
Posted 01/23/05 21:06:05

"It made me hungry and didn't make me laugh. So I really didn't like it."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Much like a tea bag, the latest comedy from relative newcomer Danny Leiner (director of the TV show “Everwood” and Dude, Where’s My Car?) and first-time screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, requires a key ingredient before it can be appreciated. And it’s not water. Just add marijuana.

And I don’t think movies should come with instructions.

Harold (John Cho) is a young, conservative investment banker and Kumar (Kal Penn) is a post-college wiz kid who’s bent on sabotaging his future as a doctor. The two friends, Uptight Pushover and Carefree Slacker, turn a routine Friday night of getting stoned into the road trip of their lives: a quest for burgers at the way-out-of-the-way fast food joint, White Castle. Racial slurs, Neil Patrick Harris on acid, a cheetah, and a raccoon all stand in the way of Harold and Kumar’s mission.

Sound like a knee-slapper of a plot? It really isn’t. Well, it’s not every day you see Doogie Howser get it on with a car seat. I’ll give you that.

There is something original about White Castle though… but it isn’t the script, the acting, or the direction… it’s the casting. Harold is Asian, and Kumar is Indian. I guess this is supposed to make me like the movie?

White Castle is responsible for one of the funniest scenes in 2004, and although it managed to court critics by making a few clever potshots (no pun intended) at the absurdity of racism … I can’t give it a pass because of a few good laughs, and I have trouble adding a star to the movie's rating, in my own personal brand of affirmative action.

Normally when a movie screams, “don’t take me seriously!” I don’t take it seriously. But the writers of White Castle must have preceded every other line of dialogue with a long drag, and were probably fucking Mary Jane hard while sketching out the plot specifics to this thing. Main characters: I get it. Premise: I get it. Not surprised you sold it, guys! But the end result isn’t creative, funny entertainment – it’s more along the lines of yawn inducing, and is of the lowest brow.

While the film intends to be high as a kite, the jokes fall hard, weighing it down. I’m all about the “silly comedy,” but only when it makes me laugh.

If I wasn’t three steps ahead of White Castle, anticipating every single gag, maybe the jokes would have snuck up on me and done the trick. But unfortunately, I found the movie to embody the sense of humor of a two-year-old or a pothead (to me, they exist on the same plane as far as definition of “funny” goes).

What White Castle did have going for it, was its social commentary, which gears a moviegoer up for perhaps a smart comedy, but unfortunately the movie is way too crowded with the logic of “Well that would never happen in real life. Put that in the script! It’ll surely get a laugh!” And if two guys riding a cheetah through the woods is the epitome of hilarity to you, then by all means, don’t let me get in the way of your fun.

I can only infer that the writers were too lazy to follow through with their better impulses and decided to cash in with idiocy of the unfunny kind.

Cho and Penn aren’t banking on Academy Awards... and I’m tempted to say they never should.

Cho appears to be sober the entire time, and unless I’m missing the point and his character is supposed to be… I can only conclude the guy playing him has never gotten high (do your research, man!) and/or is not a very a good actor. However, it’s more likely a plot hole insists that he play Harold straight – which he does sufficiently, just not too memorably.

And Penn, while fairly likeable, especially saddled next to his counterpart, oversells Kumar, and seems to think that avoiding the strain of facial muscles while talking and letting his tongue lazily rest up against his bottom lip, will make him believable as a stoner.

It’s highly possible these two actors have acting chops they may get to show off later, in better material, but I’m not putting my money on it. Still, there is a certain appeal to the duo and I would put a few bucks down on a sequel because of that fact alone. At the very least, they’ve got careers and a lifetime supply of burgers at White Castle.

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