On VH1’s recent “I Love the 90s,” actor Jeremy London explained that the reason behind the disappointing box office receipts for Richard Linklater’s 1993 cult hit Dazed and Confused was that people couldn’t enter the theater with a bong. Eleven years later, the same fate may well befall Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, the R rating and profane, drug-happy humor of which may prevent its target audience—the teenage stoner—from seeing the film in theaters in an inebriated state of mind. Directed by Danny Leiner, the idiot (or genius, you decide) who brought the world Dude, Where’s My Car?, this ganja-infatuated comedy is a trailblazing example of in-movie advertising, posing as a stupid teen comedy revolving around marijuana, boobs, and vulgar discussions of sex while in reality functioning as an extended commercial for the joys of White Castle. Although it’s ultimately as unsatisfying as its titular fast food chain’s repulsive mini-burgers, Leiner’s film (written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg) is only shooting for scatological silliness, and it does generate an occasional comedic buzz through unadulterated and rampant inanity. Uptight Harold (John Cho) and uninhibited Kumar (Kal Penn) are a modern-day Felix and Oscar, and when they get stoned on a Friday evening, their craving for White Castle sends them on a night-long odyssey through New Jersey searching for the greasy burger outlet. Along the way, they run into extreme sport bullies and racist cops who never miss an opportunity to make jokes about the duo’s ethnicity, and there’s something disquieting about the film’s pathological eagerness to embrace (and insincere attempts to subvert) offensive stereotypes about Asians as nerdish, career-driven losers. Still, Harold and Kumar are really just more intelligent versions of Ashton Kutcher and Sean William Scott’s goofy potheads from Dude, and despite a welcome skewering of over-the-top anti-drug commercials and a cameo by Neil Patrick Harris as a tripping, sex-crazed version of himself, there’s little to distinguish Harold & Kumar from its dope-loving forefathers aside from its shameless shilling for artery-clogging junk food. Somewhere, Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock is shaking his head in disbelief.
- Danny Leiner
- Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
- John Cho, Kal Penn, Malin Åkerman, Anthony Anderson, Boyd Banks, Dan Bochart, Steve Braun, Ethan Embry, Neil Patrick Harris
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