Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Harold and Kumar is a stoner comedy from the guy who directed "Dude, Where's My Car?" Although its humor is lowbrow, and the entire film is based on a case of the munchies, it's actually an inventive comedy, and there are more than a few welcome twists on the stoner genre.

The protagonists are neither brain-dead white surfers nor slacker Rastas. The two lead stoners are an overachieving, responsible Korean investment banker and a brilliant Indian guy rebelling against an overachieving family. Their situation reflects why marijuana is smoked by "normal" people, and not just by stereotyped bakeheads. Harold, the investment banker, is wound too tight and keeps too much inside. He can't even summon up the nerve to talk to the beautiful woman who flirts with him in the elevator. Burning one on Friday gives him a little escape from his uptight world and lets him retreat into a hidden part of his personality that he would like to bring closer to the surface. Kumar, the Indian guy, is a fun-loving slacker, but not because he lacks brains and ambition. He aced the MCATs and has a natural aptitude for medicine. It's just that he's just not ready to join the serious world yet ...

like many of us ...

... including some far older than Kumar's 22.

Although this is not a muckraking film about prejudice and oppressive social conditions, it is an insightful film. It's interesting to note that this story is a realistic (if impressionistic) representation of the problems encountered by a whole sub-set of young Asian-Americans. They are not different in any way from bright European Americans of their generation, but the world doesn't see it that way. Although the boys have no accents, are no different and don't attempt to be different from any other Americans, the people in the cruel streets insist on pigeonholing Harold and Kumar into Asian stereotypes. Even their fellow Asians are guilty of this! (Harold doesn't want to hang out with the smart, serious Asian girl who has a crush on him, and he certainly doesn't want to attend a meeting of the Asian Students Society, which bores the shit out of him. He just wants to summon up the nerve to get acquainted with the gorgeous Latina next door.)

Despite the presence of "Finch" in a minor role, this is no sentimental American Pie film. The script is not bound by the limitations of reality. The boys walk out of jail when the racist cops find someone with darker skin to occupy their attention. Their car is stolen by Doogie Howser. They escape from one predicament by riding away on a stoned Cheetah.

And those are the things that actually happen in their surrealistic world ...

the things in their fantasies get really strange ...

 ... Kumar imagines a love affair and subsequent marriage to a giant bag of chronic who wears the official white gloves of 30s cartoon characters. Harold enters a White Castle cartoon for a journey that resembles a scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

The situations and the humor are finely tuned to the generation born in the late 70s and early 80s. The novice screen writers were born in 1977 and 1978, and they know what they're talking about. The boys' neighbors are obsessed, for example, with a movie called The Gift, because it is the one time that Katie Holmes showed her magnificent breasts. Since I am a guy who writes about movie nudity, a long-time webmaster of a celebrity nudity web site, and the father of a young man about the same age as Harold and Kumar, I can tell you that the screenwriters nailed this. If guys their age wrote the NY Times, the first appearance of the topless captures from The Gift would have been announced in bigger headline type than "Hitler Invades Poland". One of Kumar's neighbors is asked to explain how good Katie's breasts are. He responds, "You know the Holocaust? Think of the opposite of that."

(In my review of The Gift, I wrote "Anyway, it's not a bad flick. The script is predictable and especially cliché-ridden, but that's partially balanced off by competent direction, a really good cast headed by Cate Blanchett, and Katie Holmes's breasts. Did I mention Katie Holmes's breasts? The first shot of Katie's redoubtable hooters comes 00:01:06 into the film - before the credits! Now that's entertainment. Not to mention the director's accurate assessment of a valuable asset.")

There are some great comic home runs in this movie. Neil Patrick Harris is brilliant as a twisted version of himself. Harold and Kumar have a brilliant, unprintable discussion about the proper use of nose hair clippers.

There are also some wild swinging strikes. As usual in this kind of flick, there are gross-outs which are intended to be funny but end up just gross. There are jokes which don't work, and other jokes which are funny but overstay their welcome.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic. Nice transfer.

  • unrated version of the film

  • deleted scenes and outtakes

  • the sound of the fart - sound featurette

  • various cast interviews

  • a "making of" for the animated sequence

  • three dirfferent commentary tracks


  • Kel Penn (Kumar) shows his butt
  • Malin Ackerman shows her breasts.
  • An unidentified actress flashes her silicone breasts while cruising with Doogie Howser. Another unidentified actress stands behind Doogie, but allows one peek at one nipple

On balance - well, I thought it was pretty funny, but not as consistently hilarious as some other critics have contended. I'm not sure my opinion matters much. I'm 55 and haven't fired up a doob in about three decades, so I'm not the target audience. This film is intended for the 18-29 audience, especially the guys who burn one occasionally. I think it will resonate with them, as Swingers resonated with guys slightly older who preferred their mind-altering substances in liquid form.

The Critics Vote ...

  • movies.yahoo.com. average grade: B-. The site features a trailer and plenty of clips from the movie.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. Production costs were a modest $9 million, but the studio threw $20 million into a substantial marketing campaign for this film. This generated enough hype that Box Office Mojo predicted a $13 million opening weekend, which implied that it would do $40-50 million overall. It fell far short of expectations, taking in only $5 million on 2100 screens in its first weekend, finishing with a domestic gross of only $18 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. Amusing stoner flick with bizarre, surrealistic undertones - but overrated at IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.

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