Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle (2004) — Brought to you by Wendy’s

“I want that feeling. The feeling that comes over a man when he gets exactly what he desires. I need that feeling!”

Justin’s rating: 5000 delicious calories that are probably not good for you

Justin’s review: Okay, before anything else, up to and including an actual intelligent review (yeah, right), I’ve got to say that if an Oscar was given out for Best Movie Title, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle would be a shoo-in. Before I heard anything about this movie, I saw the poster for it at my multiplex and laughed, thinking “That’s brilliant! How can I not see that flick?” And so I did — and the name wasn’t the only great thing about this movie.

Played by two second-tier actors of fairly popular recent comedies (the trailers proclaimed “That Asian guy from American Pie and that Indian guy from Van Wilder“, in a stunning display of racial and cinematic profiling), Harold and Kumar don’t do anything vastly new with the stoner-buddies-on-a-quest genre, but they do handle the territory surprisingly well.

Harold (John Cho) is the put-upon accountant, who gets stuck doing his boss’ dirty work and can’t summon up enough courage to ask the girl of his dreams out. Kumar (Kal Penn) couldn’t care less about getting into med school, even if he is brilliant in that field. Together, their only solace from life is smoking reefer and then finding that perfect munchie to end all munchies. This particular night… it’s White Castle.

Now, my feelings on White Castle generally fall to the wary side of things. Considering many people I know call their small box-like hamburgers “ratburgers” and the fact that White Castle seems to solely cater to people on their way to the latest gang shoot-out, I haven’t visited a White Castle for quite some time. So while it’s highly debatable whether this fast food chain is deserving of such worship from these two characters, I still have to tip my hat to this company for the ultimate coup of product placement. People, it’s in the title of the film. My sense of ethics might be outraged, but… kudos to the Castle anyway.

Getting to White Castle proves to be quite the challenge for these two as they get sidetracked by Mountain Dew X-treme jerks, wild raccoons, Neil Patrick Harris, college parties, disgusting hicks, overzealous cops, and the random cheetah. They just… can’t… seem… to get there, but who wants them to, when the journey is such fun? Yes, you’re hearing it from me, Harold & Kumar is a great road trip-buddy flick worthy of appreciation, particularly if you’re a fan of other like-minded movies, like Tommy Boy, Dude, Where’s My Car?, and Wayne’s World.

The humor of Harold & Kumar has the broad, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink variety to it, but what I really appreciated was the more subtle, non-jokey humor that ran through the entire film. Both main actors were terrific at just small, funny gestures and faces, such as when Kumar is out peeing on a bush in the woods and another guy comes up to him and uses the same bush. Words don’t even have to be said, as emotions and thoughts ripple across Kumar’s face (and the fact that this is a commentary on every male bathroom urinal crisis made it all the sweeter). There’s some genuinely weird comedy through-and-through, and in my opinion, that sort of thing makes a movie stand up over time much more than the general jokes that once you hear them and they’re kind of played out.

I’d gladly go back for seconds and thirds of a Harold & Kumar special, and it’s a low down dirty shame that they got overlooked by the majority of the public. Happily, this is exactly the caliber of comedy that might just have a great chance of becoming a cult classic over the years (not that I have any power to make it so, that’s just wishful thinking on my behalf). Help a dude out, and support the weird arts, will ya?

Kyle’s rating: I could actually go for some doughnuts and Kung Pao right about now

Kyle’s review: Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle is probably exactly what you’d expect it to be. It’s a teeny bit of story with no real complexity, with jokes and stock situations only the recently stoned might consider “fresh” and “original.” Other than a willingness to poke fun regarding the main characters’ varied races, and a special cameo by Neil Patrick Harris torpedoing his Doogie Howser MD image, there isn’t much here to mark this film as a dynamic recommendation. Unless you’re dying to see the secondary (and third-ary and fourth-ary) stars of recent teen films like American Pie and Dude, Where’s Your Car flex their thespian muscles in larger speaking roles.

You might get the impression that personal drug use in your past, present, or future, would render this film irresistible. It’s my opinion that would be the wrong impression… sort of. See, there’s all kinds of drug use, mostly bad (see: Sid and Nancy, Requiem for a Dream). I have to say that right off the bat. Don’t do drugs, kids, they’re mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

However, Harold and Kumar plays it smart by keeping our beloved main characters concerned only with marijuana, which is arguably the least offensive illegal drug out there. Maybe it’s just in California, but I’m pretty sure it’s not frowned upon as much as the hard stuff. After all, I’ve got glow-in-the-dark marijuana leaves on my ceiling, so how bad can it be? 10 million glaucoma sufferers can’t be wrong.

Man, this is a tough review, because I don’t want to offend anybody. So the best way to say it is this: Harold and Kumar has the potential to really speak to you and become one of your most favorite movies if you can empathize with having a tried-and-true buddy. “But Kyle, in the first paragraph you said it was crap!” Well, yeah, but cut me some slack, Jack. See, H&K is the same old same old junk story-wise and has the kind of quick-fix resolutions to problems that only leads in comedic films get to enjoy. You know, get a little self-esteem and self-confidence and suddenly work problems, romantic problems, police problems, money problems, and/or angry neighbor problems will suddenly and irrevocably be solved with the slightest amount of effort. Wow, all that and big bags of pot, too! Awesome! No, this movie won’t win you over in that department. Try foreign films: they’re a lot more interesting than you’d think!

The joy here is that Harold and Kumar are effortless friends, buddies, pot partners, so despite the stale and often tepid situations they find themselves in, the charm of the movie is enjoying the easy camaraderie they share and thinking of the close friends that you have had or have that closeness with. One of the greatest things in life is finding that special friend, male or female, where not only can you finish each other’s thoughts but you can also wind up jailed in Tijuana together, broke, desperate, and stuffed full of bags of illegal drugs, and never even consider not being friends with that person. They’re a kind of soulmate, where you can live together, work together, and do everything together and never feel too sick and tired of them because they get you, and they’ll always have your back, even if you accidentally missed the dartboard and somehow hit (and infuriated) the entire offensive line of the San Diego Chargers. It’s the two of you against the world and nothing is going to stop you now, until one of you gets a serious significant other and your whole friendship gets blown apart over jealousy, hurt feelings, and recriminations. That’s a sad, sad time.

Thankfully, H&K is about the happy time of a super-close friendship, where Harold and Kumar love nothing but to light up, laugh at the television, and try their luck with random women that won’t last long and therefore couldn’t possibly affect their friendship. Sometimes, they feel like they need White Castle hamburgers, and who can blame them? Man, besides my family and deep-dish Chicago-style pizza, White Castle is my number one reason for going back to Chicago. Love the sliders! Also, there’s a lot of female nudity, and that can’t help but smooth things over. And by female nudity I’m referring to the movie, and not White Castle restaurants. Sorry about that.

So yeah dude: Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is really stupid, yet really touching and generally non-threatening. Even if you’re totally against marijuana and any drugs of any kind that aren’t FDA-approved or sold at your local Starbucks, come on, who’s getting hurt? Just rent this movie, sit back with your favorite munchie, and enjoy the harmless antics of two mildly successful pothead slacker types. I’m not asking you to give the lifestyle a try or anything. I’m just saying: couldn’t we all just a chill-out every once in a while?

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