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New Line Home Cinema presents
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)

Harold: I'll have 30 sliders, five fries, and four large Cherry Cokes.
Kumar: I'll have the same, just with Diet Cokes.

- John Cho, Kal Penn

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: January 04, 2005

Stars: John Cho, Kal Penn
Other Stars: Neil Patrick Harris, Anthony Anderson, Ryan Reynolds, Christopher Meloni, Fred Willard
Director: Danny Leiner

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, nudity, crude and sexual humor)
Run Time: 01h:28m:18s
Release Date: January 04, 2005
UPC: 794043762529
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+B B

DVD Review

In a typical teen movie, the Asian guy and the Indian guy are in the background, providing easy laughs through ethnic stereotypes (Asians like math, and also violin! Indians talk like Apu!). Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle starts like it's going to be just another example of said, as we watch two white guys plan a wild weekend away from work. But first, they have to dump their responsibilities on the resident Asian workaholic, Harold (John Cho, who got his start playing "background Asian #1" in American Pie). Except once they walk out of the building, laughing at the poor shlub whose weekend they just ruined, we zoom back to Harold, who curses his fate, and find our hero.

Or one of our heroes, anyway. Kumar (Kal Penn), Harold's roommate, is, meanwhile, intentionally screwing up an interview to get into med school. He's brilliant, but doesn't want to go into medicine just to please his father. Despite work and other obligations, Harold and Kumar plan a pot-filled Friday night, if only to let off some steam and relax, free from expectations of racial stereotypes from the world around them. Or, maybe they just want to watch Sixteen Candles and get lit. Admittedly, on the surface, Harold & Kumar isn't much different than director Danny Leiner's last stoner comedy, Dude, Where's My Car?, but underneath all of the weed jokes, bizarre narrative tangents, and sexual gags is a smart satire of race relations that subverts what most people usually think of when they see an Asian or an Indian on television or in the movies.

It also works because of its two appealing leads, Cho and Penn, who have great chemistry. They feel like old friends and offer a refreshing change of pace from the typical buddy comedy duo. So when the two see a White Castle commercial and get the munchies, we're more than willing to follow them on their epic journey into the wilds of Jersey for a bag of sliders, even when said quest involves multiple detours to score drugs, and an encounter with a drugged-out Neil Patrick Harris (who, while "trippin' balls" on ecstasy, steals Harold's car so he can later be asked, "dude, where's my car?"), a fantasy sequence that imagines Kumar's life were he to marry a giant, walking bag of weed, a ride on an escaped cheetah, and a short ride with a pus- and boil-covered dude named "Freakshow" (Christopher Meloni, under slabs of nauseating makeup).

Yes, Harold & Kumar is essentially a road trip movie, and in their semi-coherent states, they encounter all that and much more weirdness along the way, courtesy of cameo performers like Jamie Kennedy, comic Bobby Lee, Fred Willard, Ryan Reynolds (who delivers some great lines in the film's funniest scene, as a gay E.R. nurse fascinated by Kumar's "soft, chocolate lips"), and Anthony Anderson. Like any good stoner movie, the evening's events get progressively weirder as the night rolls on, and hungry, hungry Harold and Kumar are the victims of racist cops (who beat a sleeping black man for resisting arrest) and repeatedly run afoul of a gang of sports freaks straight out of a Mountain Dew commercial ("Extreme!") before they finally reach their grease-stained Mecca.

The best part is, while elements of Harold & Kumar might play better after a few special brownies (or two those who can at least recall such an experience), the movie is still very funny stone sober. Though despite its best efforts, it doesn't quite make White Castle hamburgers look appetizing.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Aside from an inconsistent black level that makes some scenes look a little fuzzy and digital, this is a fine transfer with bright colors, good detail, and no obvious edge enhancement or artifacting.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The mix is pretty standard for a comedy, with a strong front soundstage and minimal input from the surrounds. A more enveloping mix in the film's weirder sections (the dream sequences and such ) would have been nice, but what's here works well enough.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Run Ronnie Run, Blade: Trinity, The Butterfly Effect, Festival Express
8 Deleted Scenes
3 Featurette(s)
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Danny Leiner and actors John Cho and Kal Penn, writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, and "Extreme Sports Punk #1" Danny Bochart
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Cast and Crew: Drive-Thru Bites
  2. Outtakes
Extras Review: Harold & Kumar is the type of potential cult hit that really benefits from a loaded DVD, and New Line hasn't missed the opportunity. Aside from the decent selection of bonus material, which I'll get to in a minute, I have to mention the menus, which feature new footage of Harold and Kumar on a road trip, talking about the DVD features ("We gotta get hizzy and watch it in Spanish!") and chastising viewers if they don't make a menu selection quickly enough. It's been done before, but it's still nice to see a studio put some effort into the presentation of films on DVD. It helps that the chatter is easily skipped (though lengthy menu transitions, sadly, are not).

Kicking things off are no less than three audio commentaries, because you just can't delve deeply enough into the making of a film that counts among its best moments a scene of a man performing sexual acts with a giant bag of weed. The actor/director commentary is surprisingly sedate, considering the drunken track that accompanied Danny Leiner's previous film, the similarly themed, but vastly inferior, Dude, Where's My Car?. Leiner and stars John Cho and Kal Penn are engaging, surprisingly thoughtful, and, well, sober throughout. It's not a particularly insightful discussion (what do you expect?) but it does appear a lot of thought went into what could easily have been just another stupid teen movie. Writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg also offer an entertaining, if standard, discussion of the film, tracing its progress from start to finish and pointing out who thought of which gag, and what events are taken from real life.

The third track, with actor Danny Bochart (referred to in the credits as "Extreme Sports Freak #1") is obviously supposed to be some kind of joke. He barely talks about the movie (though he starts off with a bizarre description of how he was cast), and instead rambles on, and on and on, about whatever enters his head (typically the kind of elaborate theories that make sense only after a few magic brownies). I don't know if anyone will find this funny, but somebody at New Line obviously thinks it's a possibility, as, yes indeed, he really does blab about nothing for the full 90 minutes. I couldn't take more than two without skipping around.

Eight deleted/alternate takes amount to 11m:51s of snipped footage, including an appearance by cult actor Luis Guzman and another "life with a giant bag of pot" dream sequence. The final cut scene is actually an outtakes reel. All of this material looks totally finished, by the way, and is presented in anamorphic widescreen with optional commentary from Leiner.

Cast and Crew: Drive-Thru Bites is a gallery of brief (around 01m:30s) video clips with the director, the "Battles***" girls (yes, that's what I just typed), Steve Braun (who plays the extreme sports antagonist), Neil Patrick Harris, Fred Willard, and others (eight clips in all).

Of the three featurettes, Trip to the Land of Burgers (10m:33s), an examination of the film's altered state animated sequence, is the most interesting, with interviews with the graphic designer and peeks at alternate takes that were even weirder. The Art of the Fart (10m:38s) goes way to deep into revealing how much work went into capturing just the right bathroom noises, among other sound effects. Finally, John Cho and Kal Penn: The Backseat Interview (12m:58s) is a funny interview between Cho, Penn, and Asian comedian Bobby Lee. Shot in the back of a moving car, it's a goofy twist on the typical PR fluff spot.

In terms of promotional material, there's the trailer, a music video from All Too Much (for the song Yeah), and clips for Run Ronnie Run, Blade: Trinity, The Butterfly Effect, and Festival Express.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

A sloppy, surreal, subversive stoner comedy, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle is one of the funniest films of its kind ("its kind" here means the "Hey, most of our audience is high anyway, so why should this make sense?" type of movie). Amid the trippy bits about riding an escaped cheetah to a fast food utopia because Doogie Howser stole your car while you were on a quest to escape from the grip of the dreaded munchies, is a surprisingly sharp satire of race relations (and perceptions of same) in our enlightened times. And, also, some fart jokes.

 


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