Certainly you shouldn’t expect much more than stupid from the director of such cinematic triumphs as Dude, Where’s My Car? and the stars of American Pie 2 and Malibu’s Most Wanted. Yet Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle disappoints, nonetheless.
The stoner/buddy/road-trip comedy is loaded with potential, and not only because it’s the first major Hollywood comedy to star two Asian-Americans. Other than a handful of jokes about Asian-American culture (Harold gets called a “twinkie” for being “yellow on the outside and white in the middle”), Harold and Kumar are probably more representative of suburban middle-class America than a lot of us.
The plot is simple. Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) get the munchies after smoking some doobage, and are willing to do anything to satisfy their craving for White Castle hamburgers. Straight-laced, disgruntled Harold is the foil for Kumar, a laid-back, pot-loving slacker. It’s a perfectly good setup for a stupid-but-funny comedy.
And the movie does start off really funny. The pot jokes are great and have spurred some critics to compare the duo to an Asian-American Cheech and Chong. Don’t know of I’d go that far, but in one hilarious scene, the guys are stoned out of their gourds and giggling at a lame anti-drug commercial. “I love that shit,” Kumar says. It’s hard not to giggle right along.
There are some clever observations about everyday life too: The boys decide not to turn back into the house for a forgotten cell phone when they are a few steps from the door. They pause for a minute before declaring the reconnaissance journey too far. Who hasn’t done that? The movie also pokes fun at the culture of meathead guys who like everything extreme, from their sports to their Doritos.
But just as Harold and Kumar get started on their burger odyssey, the movie gets dumb — and far too puerile to forgive and forget. I mean, the guys have a near-death experience with a computer-generated raccoon and later take a ride on a digital cheetah.
Harold and Kumar follows the course of far too many comedies these days by playing “What’s grosser than gross?” with the audience. Poop contests? A guy with oozing boils? Trimming your nether-regions with your friend’s scissors? That’s just nasty, not funny.
In the end, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle is the film equivalent of eating a sack full of greasy sliders: The first few bites are heavenly, while the rest leaves you feeling more sick than satisfied.
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