Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (***)

Posted on August 4th, 2004 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

So, this movie is hilarious. Mynagirl and I had a rare, footloose vacation day and indulged ourselves by attending a business-afternoon screening, attended by us and a handful of 18-22 year olds. We, and they, laughed out loud throughout the whole thing. Mind you, there are some parts that are slower and stupider than other parts, but overall this is a smart and funny film wrapped up in the guise of a stoner buddy flick.

The basic storyline follows two post-graduate, pre-maturity roommates named Harold and Kumar as they spend a weekend getting stoned, getting the munchies, and embarking on a Quixotian quest for some White Castle hamburgers. For those unfamiliar, White Castle sells tiny little square hamburgers served with diced onions on top. One (if one is me) typically eats 4-6 of these little burgers (referred to colloquially as “sliders”, because they’re small, greasy, and tasty and slide right down the gulliver) at a sitting, along with 2-3 orders of fries.

The Harold in Harold & Kumar is a Korean, twenty-something, junior investment banker. He’s smart, hard-working, and shy and likes following the rules, at least as he sees him. For instance, at one point Kumar throws the correct change into a tollbooth, but the signal does not turn green and the boys are out of change. Kumar proposes just driving off. Harold says no way, because it’s his car and he doesn’t like breaking the rules. The funny part is that while Harold is declaring his conformity, he’s also rolling a joint.

Kumar, on the other hand, is a super-smart, Indian party-boy who aced his MCATs, but purposely throws his med school admission interviews so that he can simply get high and live off of money from his dad. Kumar floats through life looking for a good time, and looking to ensure that Harold loosens his white collar over the weekend and gets back in touch with his inner stoner.

Now, at this point you might think that Harold & Kumar is simply an updated Cheech & Chong movie, but it’s not. This film, while a stoner comedy on the surface, also provides witty commentary about the lives of young, first-generation Americans who live in limbo between the gratefully hardworking ethos of their parents and the soft, slacker pace of the lives of young Americans in general. Harold and Kumar are both smarter than your average bear, and pot-smoking notwithstanding, are on track to becoming upstanding pillars of society…eventually. Their adventures in this film represent a sort of last, wild bachelor party prior to their betrothal to maturity and good citizenship.

The film has a couple of low-brow moments that I could live without, but overall it is laugh-out-loud funny throughout. John Cho (Harold) and Kal Penn (Kumar) both do excellent work embodying the conflicting facets of their characters, and I expect big things will come to both of these actors as a result of their performances here. The rest of the cast also does a good job, the direction is good, the script is snappy, some of the effects are a bit cheesy, but then again this isn’t the latest Star Wars installment (thank god). This movie is well worth the price of admission. In fact, Mynagirl and I are actually talking about going back and seeing it in the theater again this weekend. Given the backlog of unwatched movies out there that we need to get to, the fact that Harold & Kumar jumped back to the top of our list should tell you a lot.

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