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Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle Review

By Shawn McKenzie 10/28/2004

It’s a weird history for me about White Castle.  Being from Colorado, I had never seen a White Castle restaurant in my life (and I still haven’t seen one to this day.)  I first became familiar with White Castle through the lyrics of the Beastie Boys’ first album License to Ill.  They referenced the restaurants several times on that album, but being so young, I didn’t understand what they were talking about (I was 12 when that album came out.)  I finally figured out what they were talking about several years later, but I had never tasted a White Castle Slider, the mini-burgers that they are famous for making.  A couple of years ago, I noticed that my local supermarket had been selling the Sliders from White Castle and that they were available for anyone to buy without needing to go to the actual restaurant.  I found it interesting, but I didn’t try them.  When it came to seeing the screening of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, I figured that I should do some research afterwards, so I bought a package of Sliders.  I took them home, heated them up, and ate them.  Unfortunately, I found them to taste awful!  Fortunately, that wasn’t the case for the movie, which was hilarious.

Harold Lee (John Cho) is a hard working junior analyst at an investment-banking firm.  Alas, his superiors, Billy (Ethan Embry) and Cole (Steve Braun), who continually dump work on him because they assume that he will always do it, are always harassing him.  He was looking forward to a relaxing weekend, and maybe asking out his cute neighbor Maria Quesa Dilla (Paula Garcés), though he is too shy to do so.  Harold’s roommate, Kumar Patel (Kal Penn), is the opposite in attitude about his work ethic.  He is an incredibly smart medical student applying to medical school, but he has no interest in being a doctor, and is he is only trying please his dad so that his dad will keep footing the bills.  In fact, the dean of admissions, Dr. Woodruff (Fred Willard), is surprised that he is so disrespectful during his school interview, despite having perfect MCAT scores.  Harold and Kumar kick back that night after their stressful days and decide to get high, kind of like their neighbors Goldstein (David Krumholtz) and Rosenberg (Eddie Kaye Thomas), who are getting high themselves and are waiting to see the Katie Holmes topless scene from The Gift.  Inspired by a TV commercial, they get a major case of the munchies and the only thing that will satisfy them is White Castle burgers.  First, they need to get more weed from a hippie dealer at Princeton named Brad Thomas (Dov Tiefenbach), and they run into a girl named Cindy Kim (Siu Ta) from the Asian Club who has a crush on Harold and two hot English girls named Christy (Kate Kelton) and Clarissa (Brooke D’Orsay) who have some disgusting bathroom habits.  After that, they go to Hoboken to the local White Castle, where they find out from the drive-thru employee (Anthony Anderson) that it is closed and has been turned into a Burger Shack (Anderson’s character proceeds to go psycho afterwards in hilarious fashion.)  They find out that the nearest White Castle is 45 minutes away in Cherry Hill, so they have a long drive ahead of them.  It is during this drive that they encounter many weird characters along the way.  They meet a creepy guy in the woods (Jamie Kennedy) who stops to pee with them, and then Harold is attacked by a raccoon, requiring them to have to go to the hospital.  Kumar runs into his father and they make up, but it was only a ruse so that they could steal doctor’s robes in order to get their hands on some medicinal marijuana.  Before they head off with the marijuana, they run into a gay male nurse (Ryan Reynolds) working on a gun shot victim (Boyd Banks) who mistakes them for doctors and hits on them.  After that, they end up with a flat tire, which requires them to need a tow from a tow truck driver named Randy, a.k.a. Freakshow (Christopher Meloni), a disgusting boil-infested Jesus freak who says they can have sex with his wife Lianne (Malin Akerman.)  After escaping Freakshow, they pick up a hitchhiker that turns out to be Neil Patrick Harris, a.k.a. Doogie Howser (playing himself), who’s high on ecstasy.  They stop off for gas, only to be harassed by some extreme sports punks (Dan Bochart and Steven DiTata) and try to defend the clerk.  Neil ends up stealing Harold and Kumar’s car in the meantime, and they are arrested by Officer Palumbo (Sandy Jobin-Bevans), put in jail for jaywalking, and meet a highly intelligent man in the cell named Tarik (Gary Anthony Williams) who is in there for being black.  They then break out of jail, steal the punks’ SUV, and hang-glide down where they are able to finally get their precious White Castle burgers.

Cho and Penn have great chemistry as two intelligent stoners who have different self-esteem issues.  Cho is the shy loser, and Penn is the unafraid one.  I found it fascinating that both of them seem to get past their own racial biases, even though everyone around them does.  From the executive jerks who assume that Harold is a hard-working Asian, to Kumar being harassed by the punks who assume that he is only good enough to operate a convenience store counter, to Tarik talking about how “The Man” is bringing him down, Harold and Kumar just let it slide down their backs.  All they care about is the pursuit of their chosen munchie delights.

I have to admit, I was afraid that this movie was going to be stupid instead of funny.  The director, Danny Leiner, is infamous for being the director of the incredibly brainless movie Dude, Where’s My Car?  I hated that movie, so I didn’t have a lot of hopes for this one.  I was very shocked that it turned out to be one of the funniest movies this year.  This proves to me that some directors can learn from their mistakes, and though this one wasn’t as successful box office-wise as Dude, creatively it was a success.

While I didn’t enjoy the burgers, I utterly enjoyed Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.  My sides split with almost every scene.  It isn’t going to be an Oscar winner, but unlike the burgers, it will a give you a satisfying taste in your mouth going down.

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