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Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle /

Rated: R

Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Ethan Embry, Steve Braun

Directed by: Danny Leiner

Produced by: Greg Shapiro
Written by:
Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Distributor:
New Line Cinema

 

John Cho as Harold and Kal Penn as Kumar in New Line's Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
Bobby Lee as Kenneth Park, raising his arm again to ask Harold yet another question about getting a job after college in New Line's Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
John Cho as Harold and Kal Penn as Kumar in New Line's Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

     Every time I review a movie of this sort, I feel like Iím conducting a seminar for underprivileged, aspiring filmmakers, who know nothing about how to write and direct a motion picture. And itís a lesson Iíve taught about a million times. So, we start with the basics: (1) Youíve gotta be witty, (2) Youíve gotta be smart, (3) Youíve gotta be subtle, and so on and so forth. But, instead of merely instructing, I feel like Iím correcting, as if Iím some kind of jailhouse-mentor for those who have made nasty, messy movies. If I could actually run a prison, which would punish writer/directors for their attempts at fame, you could bet that Danny Leiner would be in it. Heíd have to eat a helluva lot of White Castle burgers before his sentence ended, too.

     Iím one of the elite few who actually appreciated whatever comedic value Leinerís previous effort, Dude, Whereís My Car?, held. But that project carried a less-offensive PG-13 rating, and was easily likeable. Right when critics begin to like the guy, though, I seem to be instantly turned off by his work. The sloppiness of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is enough to destroy the joyous experiences I had watching Dude, twenty-something times. Itís great that a Korean and an Indian can star in a movie, together, as the press-community has been saying, but for what? Stupid material about two stoner-friends who are hungry and decide to seek out a White Castle Burger at night? A duo that ends up having an overlong adventure through New Jersey, as penises and assholes are confronted along the way? Iíd call Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle an insult against Asians before Iíd call it a breakthrough for them. The same goes for the burger chain that its title bears the name of.

     Little of my hatred for this flick is actually derived from its discussion topics, graphic scenes, and morally questionable intentions. I can laugh at some pretty disgusting crap, as long as itís presented on a silver platter. But, here, such material is wedged in between two soggy buns in the shape of a manufactured square.  And, believe me when I say youíd have to be a lot more stoned than the main characters to confuse that for a shiny plate. In less metaphorical terms, I didnít laugh at Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. The gross-out gags simply serve as cheap-shots at the human anatomy, not quirky bits of hilarity. Everyone seems to be comparing this to American Pie, which makes me appreciate the 1999 work a lot more. It, at least, had some sense, and knew how to cross ďthe lineĒ pleasantly. Pie crafted a chain of events that were all in good fun, whereas Harold and Kumarís adventures lead a seemingly mean-spirited duration. Intentions are everything in contemporary comedy, and those of this movie are undeniably false.

     John Cho, who plays Harold, is perhaps the only redeeming feature in the film. Heís quite a natural performer, and plays with the typical Asian stereotypes in his mannerisms, generating half of the two laughs in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. The other one occurs during a fake commercial, in which a kid dopily blasts his brains out after using marijuana. His co-star, Kal Penn, is warm and likeable in his role, but all such a cover does is mask many of the putrid ďjokesĒ that he has to deliver. I sympathize for both actors; while neither of them is especially great in this picture, being contractually stuck in the mold of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle would be unbearable, for me.

     If I have to see another atrocious teen-comedy this year, insane sourness should be expected in my writing. If you come across the urge to buy a ticket for Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle this weekend, just remind yourself that the best picture of the year so far, a smart, gutsy movie about teenage life, called The Girl Next Door, comes out on DVD in three weeks. What can you do until August 24th comes along? Almost anything, twiddling your thumbs included, would probably be better than sitting through this slimy, lukewarm piece of crap.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (7.31.2004)


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