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Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle - DVD Review

With Harold and Kumar, today's generation gets its Cheech & Chong. For those who are too young to know, Cheech & Chong was a pair of stand up comedians who hit the big time in the seventies and early eighties with their drug-flavored brand of crass comedy. After four or five C & C movies each realizing a decreasing amount of success and several more marijuana-based comedies like Half-Baked, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Dude, Where's My Car, I thought for sure we had finally run out of stoner gags, pot(ty) humor and munchie bits. But along comes Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle to prove me wrong.

While the thin plot varies little from its drug-related predecessors the lead characters stumble through the movie in a pot-induced haze Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle brings a fresher, funnier, smarter face to the bit with some new gags and brazen jabs. Yes, I said smarter! Don't get me wrong, we're not talking about a Mensa candidate here, but with White Castle, director Danny Leiner and writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg have managed to add a second layer to an otherwise mindless comedy by wrapping a parody about the absurdity of racial stereotypes in the skin of a comedy with laugh-out-loud youthful appeal.

Slacker roommates Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn), being Americans of foreign descent, are frequently subjected to racial profiling. Korean-American Harold is a hard-working accountant with a large investment bank. He's constantly on the receiving end of extra work because "Asians like working with numbers". He fantasizes about asking out the beautiful brunette Maria (Paula Garcés), but can only manage a few mumbles and facial contortions when he tries to speak to her.

Indian-American Kumar is a brilliant young pre-med candidate and the son of a successful doctor. He's avoiding medical school by sabotaging his own entry interviews because he'd rather sit around, smoke pot, and get laid than follow in the career footsteps of his father. In fact, after toking it up on this particular night, Kumar persuades Harold to join him on a jag to the local White Castle burger joint so that they can quench an extreme case of the munchies. But wouldn't you know it, White Castle was recently replaced by The Burger Shack and the drive-through window attendant (Anthony Anderson) informs them of another location forty-five minutes away. Their now longer-than-expected journey of munchie elimination leads them on an escapade wrought with mishaps and follies but one that ultimately rewards them with a life-changing experience.

Following the formula of many teen road trip plots, the remainder of the movie covers the events of a single night as Harold and Kumar encounter a wild assortment of outlandish characters and even more outlandish events. Much like in most of Cheech and Chong's movies, the plot is really nothing more than a series of sidesplitting skits held together by the thin thread of a parade of interesting characters. But unlike in C & C, the characters in White Castle actually serve a secondary purpose. They sub-consciously drill home the film's sub-text of the ridiculous state of racial affairs in this country. And as contemptible as many of the characters are, it's frighteningly not too hard to believe that they could actually be exaggerated copies of what a racial minority might encounter in a lifetime. One particular scene involving the ridicule of an Indian-American convenience store clerk and the destruction of a bag of Doritos acts as an uncomfortably funny statement about both racial stereotyping and the madness of "extreme" marketing. Is it OK to laugh at such things? Only if you simultaneously "get" the parody.

I don't want to make it sound like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is a heavy message movie with flawless execution. After all, we're talking about the director of Dude, Where's My Car here. Although it's evident that time was spent with the script and dialogue, White Castle is really nothing more than a well-paced, extremely funny yuk-fest that feeds itself on stoner humor and the chemistry and talent of Penn and Cho. It never takes itself too seriously and neither should you.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen 1.85:1.

Subtitles: English; Spanish; Closed Captioned.

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; deleted scenes; featurette; closed captioned.

* Commentaries:
o With director Roland Emmerich and actors John Cho and Kal Penn.
o With writers Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg
o Extreme commentary track with Danny Bouchart (Extreme punk #1)
* Interviews:
o The Back Seat Interview with Bobby Lee and several stars of the movie.
o Drive-thru Bites - with director, writer and many of the actors.
* Featurettes:
o A Trip to the Land of Burgers - Animated Sequence
o The Art of the Fart - Sound design
* Deleted/Alternate Scenes
* Trailers - Original theatrical trailers for Harold & Kumar plus other New Line releases.
* Music Video: Yeah, by All Too Much
* DVD-Rom Features:
o Storyboard Comparisons
o Me & Weedy
o Weblinks
o Flash Game


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