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"Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle"

Directed by Danny Leiner.
Written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg.
Starring John Cho, Kal Penn, Malin Akerman and Neil Patrick Harris.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  7/31/04


When you first saw the trailer for "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle", did you say something to yourself along the lines of

"Man, that's probably going to suck...but, I'm gonna catch that one in theaters!"

Because, I (and many other men, I assume) kept thinking how much I wanted to see this thing, even though I was convinced it was going to suck.

I was half right.  "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle", directed by the same guy that did "Dude, Where's My Car?", is your standard-issue road movie.  Two twenty-something guys, Harold (John Cho, "Better Luck Tomorrow") and Kumar (Kal Penn), start off the night seeing a commercial for White Castle's and spend the rest of the movie just trying to get something to eat...but, almost every single thing goes wrong as they try to get some Sliders before they can go home.

Along the way, there's weed, there's racism, there's...Neil Patrick Harris.  In the most random movie of the year, you just fall in love with how crazy all of the haps are in this flick, especially when it's "on."  See, half of "Harold and Kumar..." isn't that good, whether it be jokes that bomb, or a sick-out sequence, or some bad acting by the leads.  When it's bad, it's not abysmal, but when you spend some time not laughing in a film that only offers comedy, well, that's going to cost you.

But, when "Harold and Kumar..." is funny, holy shit, this is some great stuff.  As actors they might not be great, but the chemistry between Cho and Penn is convincing.  Sometimes you'll be laughing just watching the two of them make faces back at each other, and a great scene where a sing-along takes place during a Wilson Phillips song works because these two are just so hammy together.  Plus, the script works in some great gags, maybe none funnier than a dream sequence where Kumar thinks he's married to a bag of weed...that scene alone justifies going to see this film in theaters.  By the time he is mock berating his bag in the dream sequence, I was howling!

As you could tell from the preview, race-related jokes are everywhere in "Harold and Kumar...", and most of those work.  Playing on the stereotypes of how "white" America views Asian and Indian residents, it's no wonder that lines like "Thank you, come again!" in an Indian-English accent make you laugh like an idiot.  There's a shot at the very end of the film while the credits are rolling that helps seal the deal on all of these stereotypes, and those kinds of gags work for me if I can come in knowing that every race is going to be treating equally badly during a film.  (The black guy in jail...oh man, this made me laugh out loud in this flick, especially the way the guy handles getting a beatdown from the dirty New Jersey cops in the film.)

It was a mixed experience.  I don't think I will watch "Harold and Kumar..." again, but if it comes on HBO and I've got some time to burn, I'll wait around to watch that shot again of the inevitable scene where the guys finally get to the White Castle...whenever we used to go to Indianapolis as a kid, we'd always do two things:  1) eat Long's Donuts, the best donuts in America, and 2) eat at White Castle's.  Damn, those little burgers ARE the shit...

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09