The new stoner comedy Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle, is a bit like a meal at the titular restaurant- quick bite-sized bits of comedy that add up to a satisfying guilty pleasure meal. It’s not haute cuisine and you may not want to make it a regular part of your cinematic diet, but it’s a nice treat every now and then.
Harold (John Cho) is a hard working junior analyst at an investment-banking firm. He works so hard not so much out of his own drive, but because his white co-workers think that the Korean Harold loves the extra work. After having a particularly large project dumped on him late one Friday afternoon, Harold heads home to the apartment he shares with his friend Kumar (Kal Penn), a young Indian man who is trying his best to avoid living up to his family’s expectation of attending medical school. Rather than live up to other people’s expectations of them, Harold and Kumar would rather just be left alone, smoke a little pot and enjoy their weekend. However, late in the evening and deep in a pot induced haze the two suddenly decide to seek out a mythical open 24 hours White Castle restaurant to cure their inevitable munchies. As expected, the pair run afoul of bigoted cops, a freakish tow truck driver and his over-sexed wife and, crazed woodland creatures.
Harold And Kumar is a typical road comedy in that it is fairly episodic. The duo bounce through different situations that are connected tenuously at best. While some scenes work better than others, the script manages to move quickly on before any one comic setup drags on for too long. Cho and Penn work well together, even though their character dynamic is as old as The Odd Couple. Each will come to certain personal revelation by the end that most should see coming unless they slept through the first twenty minutes of the film. After playing second bananas in such films as National Lampoon’s Van Wilder and the American Pie series, Cho and Penn step in the forefront on a film and acquit themselves rather well.
The number of cameo appearances in this film only rivals that of the recently released remake of Around The World In 80 Days. Ryan Reynolds, Penn’s Van Wilder co-star, shows up as an emergency room doctor who mistakes a surgical-masked Kumar for his father. Eddie Kaye Thomas, whom starred with Cho in the American Pie franchise, also drops in for a few moments. The ever dependable and funny Fred Willard appears as a medical school admissions officer. By far the best is the appearance by Neil Patrick Harris, spoofing his image as the former teen star of the television series Doogie Hauser, MD.
There’s a smartness to the script that elevates it about the usual recent teen comedy fare that is surprisingly welcome. With both leads not being standard Caucasian young adults, the film takes numerous opportunities to mock various stereotypes. A group of extreme sports enthusiasts who look as if they’ve stepped out of a soda commercial are shown to have rather odd, un-extreme musical tastes. A gathering of Asian students at an Ivy League school successfully dissects the nerdy, studious image sometimes associated with them. Kumar’s father and brother are very career minded doctors. Rural New Jersey police officers are often shown to be ignorantly racist. Definitely not for those who are more political correctly minded, but that’s what helps to make the film a delicious treat.