New Line // 2004 // 90 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // January 24th, 2005
Fast food. High times.
Two roommates get high one Friday night, see a commercial for White Castle hamburgers, get a craving for some sliders, and embark on a stoner odyssey. And, uh, Doogie Howser snorts coke on a half-naked chick's butt. C'mon, you know you wanna see that.
Harold (John Cho, Better Luck Tomorrow) is a straitlaced junior-grade corporate analyst whose boss is a tool. Kumar (Kal Penn, Malibu's Most Wanted) is a slacker who deliberately screws up his chances of getting into med school. Harold's boss dumps a load of work on Harold's desk late one Friday, seemingly ruining his and Kumar's plans of sitting around in their apartment all weekend getting baked. Kumar manages to talk his roommate into taking a couple of tokes, and, wouldn't you know it, the munchies set in. But not just any food will satisfy their cravings -- they want the ultimate food: White Castle hamburgers. So they hop in Harold's car and embark on an epic journey during which they cross paths with a cheetah, racist cops, extreme sports fanatics, flatulent British coeds, a mutant tow-truck driver, and Neil Patrick Harris.
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle is every bit as stupid as I expected it to be, but it's also a helluva lot funnier than I was expecting (especially for a film directed by the guy who made Dude, Where's My Car?). Yeah, it's more than a bit crude, the thin plot is nothing more than an excuse for a string of gross-out gags, and other than the fact that the main characters belong to different ethnic groups than we're accustomed to seeing in a film of this genre (Harold is Korean-American, Kumar is Indian-American) there's really nothing new happening here, but none of this matters, because most of the gags work, there's some really funny dialogue, and, if I remember correctly, five topless chicks. Add all of that up and you've got a pretty enjoyable ninety minutes.
There's absolutely no way to discuss the plot, as there's not much of one. I think the best thing to do is just to mention some of the things I did enjoy about the film, so (and these are in no particular order) here we go.
* Goldstein and Rosenberg
Goldstein (David Krumholtz, The Mexican) and Rosenberg (Eddie Kaye Thomas, American Pie) are Harold and Kumar's neighbors. They don't want to make the journey to White Castle with our heroes, choosing instead to stay in and watch The Gift on HBO. Why? Because of the Katie Holmes topless scene. (Why do I think that's funny? Because it's true. Trust me, I know.)
* The Twinkie
Early in their journey Harold and Kumar find themselves on the campus of Princeton. Harold doesn't want to go to Princeton, but Kumar thinks it will be a good place to score (in more ways than one). Harold is desperately hoping to avoid a Princeton student named Cindy Kim (Siu Ta, The Art of Woo); Cindy keeps harping on Harold to attend meetings of the Asian-American student group she heads because she thinks Harold has become a Twinkie. What does she mean by this? Yellow on the outside, white on the inside.
* The British Coeds
There's a scene in which Harold and Kumar are trying to avoid a campus cop in a Princeton dorm, and they duck into a girls' restroom. Two British coeds walk in while our heroes are hiding in a stall. Seems these coeds are the victims of a rather nasty bout of taco-induced gastric discomfort, and they relieve themselves with a scatological variation on the game of Battleship.
* Kenneth Park
Bobby Lee (Mad TV) appears as a Princeton senior named Kenneth Park. Kenneth has applied for a job at Harold's firm, and he even asks Harold to write him a recommendation. Kenneth invites Harold to a party, but Harold declines, much to his and Kumar's regret, as we later see Kenneth offering to trade some pot brownies for a chance to see two lovely college girls remove their shirts.
* Freakshow and Leann
At one point in their journey Harold and Kumar drive accidentally down an embankment and end up with a flat tire. They're soon picked up by Freakshow (Christopher Meloni, Bound), a mutated, Jesus-loving, tow-truck-driving redneck. Freakshow takes them to his house and tells them to make themselves at home, even going so far as inviting them to have sex with his wife. Leann (Malin Akerman, The Skulls), Freakshow's wife, is surprisingly hot, and seems eager to please our heroes, but only if they agree to tag team her. Kumar is eager to be pleased, but Harold doesn't like the idea of, shall we say, a certain part of his anatomy rubbing up against the same certain part of Kumar's anatomy. The two try to broker some other kind of arrangement, but they are interrupted by Freakshow, who...well, you're better off witnessing that for yourself.
* Neil Patrick Harris
Harold and Kumar pick up a hitchhiking Neil Patrick Harris, who is wandering along the side of the road "tripping balls" after taking some ecstasy. Neil doesn't care about White Castle and tries to talk our heroes into either going to a strip club or picking up some prostitutes. Neil ends up stealing Harold's car. He later reappears, zooming by our heroes as they emerge from the woods after having hitched a ride on a cheetah (don't ask). It's at this point in the film that we get to see Neil feeling up a half-naked chick before snorting a line of coke off her right butt cheek. Harold and Kumar run into Neil one more time (leading to an obvious, albeit funny, joke on director Danny Leiner's previous film) and Neil returns Harold's keys. He also pays Harold two hundred dollars as compensation for the "love stains" he leaves on Harold's backseat.
Harold is arrested for jaywalking and is thrown into a cell with Tarik (Gary Anthony Williams, Undercover Brother), a professor who has been arrested by some racist cops (ostensibly because they caught him reading, although Tarik says the cops are also jealous of his big unit). Gary Anthony Williams isn't given much to do, but the dude is just funny, and he (along with his two dads) reappears in a pretty good bit during the closing credits.
You also get some rabid animal action, the heroes disguising themselves as doctors, a pretty girl Harold is crushing on but is too nervous to speak to, the requisite number of gay jokes, two dream sequences, and a band of racist extreme sports fanatics who enjoy listening to Amy Grant and Wilson Phillips. Like I said before, it's funny stuff.
As is pretty much the norm with New Line, this release gives you a good bit of bang for your buck. The anamorphic transfer is very good; there are a rough couple of shots near the beginning, and a couple of instances of some annoying haloing, but otherwise it's a solid effort. The sound isn't spectacular, but it does its job. The audio in the Dolby Digital track is mostly anchored in the front half of the soundstage, with the surrounds only really kicking in during some of the soundtrack's songs. There's a good selection of extras, too. You get three commentaries, including one with the director and stars (which is pretty good), one with the writers (which is okay), and one featuring one of the film's extreme sports boneheads (which is worthless). There are also short interview clips featuring about a dozen members of the cast and crew, a music video, two theatrical trailers (including the red band trailer), a look at the creation of one of the dream sequences, a featurette chronicling the efforts of sound designer Jeff Kushner to record the perfect fart, and a handful of deleted scenes and outtakes. (One of the deleted scenes features Luis Guzman, and I really wish it had been left in the film. Can't get enough Guzman.) My favorite extra is a backseat interview with John Cho and Kal Penn, which is conducted by Bobby Lee. Lee drives Cho and Penn around one rainy night, and the three guys spend most of their time insulting each other. Other than the needless third commentary track, this is a pretty nice package.
My big beef concerns the sometimes awkward moments of social commentary dropped into the film. I understand why they're there, but at times they seem in danger of bringing to film to a halt. I think the real problem is that these scenes are allowed to drag on for far too long. The scene in which the extreme sports guys terrorize a convenience store clerk is three times as long as it needs to be, and by the end seems to exist mainly as a product placement for Doritos. There's also a little too much of the racist cops; the point of this particular scene is made rather quickly, so there's really no need to keep stretching it out. Now, having said that, I must admit that the payoff of this run-in with the law did provide, in my opinion, the biggest laugh in the film, which comes during the closing credits (it's the last joke in the film -- make sure you don't miss it), so I guess a long setup isn't really a bad tradeoff for such a good punchline.
I'd also like to complain about the lack of White Castles in my neck of the woods. This film does a really good job of promoting the little burgers, and it left me with a case of what the Smithereens once referred to as the "White Castle blues." The only way to get White Castle hamburgers where I live is to buy the microwaveable kind, but they're just not the same, and they cost too much.
Speaking of that Smithereens song -- why isn't it in the movie? I understand it's on the soundtrack, but it's not featured in the movie itself. What's up with that?
Oh, one more thing. Other than Malin Akerman, the chicks who appear topless in the film aren't listed in the credits. Great. Google search denied.
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle serves no other purpose than to make people laugh, and it made me laugh. (Heck, even the menus are funny.) To those of you of a like mind -- definitely recommended. What more needs to be said?
Hey, it's a victimless crime. Not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2005 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Three Commentaries
* John Cho/Kal Penn Backseat Interview
* "The Art of the Fart" Featurette
* "A Trip to the Land of Burgers" Featurette
* Deleted Scenes/Outtakes
* Cast and Crew Drive-Thru Bites
* Music Video
* DVD-ROM Content
* Theatrical Trailers
* Official Site
* White Castle Official Site
* "White Castle Blues"