DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
HAROLD & KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE (director: Danny Leiner; screenwriters: Jon Hurwitz/Hayden Schlossberg; cinematographer: Bruce Douglas Johnson; editor: Jeff Betancourt; music: David Kitay; cast: John Cho (Harold Lee), Kal Penn (Kumar Patel), Paula Garcès (Maria), Neil Patrick Harris (himself), David Krumholtz (Goldstein), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Rosenberg), Christopher Meloni (Freakshow), Fred Willard (Dr. Willoughby), Anthony Anderson (Burger Shack Employee), Siu Ta (Cindy Kim), Dov Tiefenbach (Bradly Thomas), Malin Akerman (Liane); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Greg Shapiro/Nathan Kahane; New Line Cinema; 2004)

 
"It's all as serious as a White Castle slider."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Danny Leiner's ("Dude, Where's My Car?'') smartass, irreverent, gross-out comedy follows the nightmarish night through the sprawling interiors of New Jersey of Korean-American investment bank analyst Harold (John Cho) and Indian-American medical-school candidate Kumar (Kal Penn). They are two brainy twentysomething weekend pot heads with hunger cravings for some White Castle burgers who go searching for such a place and the seemingly easy journey turns out to be a difficult one and becomes their life lesson. It's scripted by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who hand in an uneven work that is nevertheless winsome because its consistently silly humor (not for everyone) pokes fun at stereotyping, the American pop culture scene, and it does a nice job in its satire on the straight world. It should stick around for awhile as a cult film; it's in the subgenre of American Pie or any of the Cheech and Chong films. Fans of such youthful bawdy comedies or any viewer whoever got stoned and found themselves attacking those White Castle mini-burgers as if they were in gourmet heaven, should relish this dumb flick and not be taken aback by its questionable taste in both storytelling and food.

Harold is the dutiful, button-down Ivy League type, who is taken advantage of by his workplace colleagues and asked to do their work over the weekend of crunching numbers as they lie and say they have business conferences. Kumar is the charmingly overconfident but irresponsible stoner who purposely flubs a medical school interview his father arranged with Dean Willoughby (Fred Willard). The roommates get stoned and after seeing a TV commercial for White Castle take Harold's car to the nearest one in New Brunswick, but find it closed for another burger fast-food joint and the nearest one is 45-minutes away in Cherry Hill. The boys have their stomachs set only on WC and it leads to a series of misadventures involving racial insults from a taunting group of ignorant extreme-sport punks; police abuse by redneck cops; a stopover at Princeton University to mingle with an Asian students group they both consider nerdy but who turn out to be party people; they also try to score weed on campus and while trying to get laid get turned off by a farting exhibit they witness in the girl's bathroom between two coeds they earlier picked up; Harold getting bit in the neck by a raccoon and going to the hospital to check for rabies and while there a case of mistaken identity has Kumar in the emergency room operating to save a man from bleeding to death following a gunshot wound; getting a flat tire on a back road wooded area and having a Jesus freak named Freakshow (Christopher Meloni) in a tow-truck, with grotesque boils over his face, rescue them by taking them to his house where he says it's all right if they screw his beautiful blonde wife Liane while he fixes their flat--but the freebie doesn't go quite as planned; picking up hitch-hiker Neil Patrick Harris and having the horny man steal Harold's car while tripping out on ecstasy; Harold gets arrested for accidentally punching a belligerent cop and Kumar helps him escape; running away from a wild cheetah; and, hang-gliding to freedom with cops in pursuit after they stole the taunting skateboarders' SUV. All these incidents happen before they reach WC and have their perfect meal. Attaining this simple goal gives the shy Harold enough courage to come onto Maria (Paula Garcès), a pretty girl who lives in his building that he has a crush on but is always tongue-tied when he meets her in the elevator.

It's played only for laughs, but there's a refreshing take it or leave Asian immigrant story of the Americanized second-generation boys following the American Dream--which they find at the end of their journey connects them with their straight parents. It's all as serious as a White Castle slider (I believe that's what they call their mini-burgers).

REVIEWED ON 1/19/2006        GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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