Review: Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
4 out of 5 stars
Harold and Kumar are the Cheech and Chong of the new generation. But the dynamic between the likable characters elevates Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle above the typical stoner comedy.
Harold is an accountant who takes the brunt of "positive" Asian-American stereotypes, namely that they're all good at math. He is serious and bookish, but enjoys getting high on the weekends. Kumar is Harold's Indian-American roommate and polar opposite. Getting high is a way of life for Kumar, and he plans to float through life on his dad's money.
On one fateful Friday night, the two heroes have the munchies and are determined to get their fix at White Castle after seeing a TV commercial. The nearest White Castle is a good 45-minute drive, providing you know the way. The two stoners predictably get lost and have a series of quirky late-night adventures as they stray off the beaten path, which include encounters with a Jesus freak straight out of Deliverance known as Freakshow, frequent run-ins with a gang of "extreme" skateboarders, and Neil Patrick Harris (TV's Doogie Howser, M.D.). One of my favorite scenes is a fantasy sequence in which Kumar imagines his life with a giant, walking sack of weed.
The movie is stylish and makes good use of what appears to be a relatively low budget of $9 million ($20 million would be modest for a comedy).
Harold & Kumar has a lot of good laughs, including both situational humor and playing on racial stereotypes. The racial humor is funny without getting too offensive or preachy. But the movie ultimately works because of the character development. Even with their flaws, Harold and Kumar are both likeable characters that the audience can root for. Character change drives good fiction, and the viewer is happy to see Harold learn to assert himself and Kumar decide to grow up.
While Harold & Kumar is not a great film by any stretch of the word, it accomplishes exactly what it set out to do, which makes it effective.