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Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

Stoner comedy Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle is better than it has any right being.  It's pretty much the same as every other type of movie like this, and anybody who loved Super Troopers should love this one, but the one interesting thing is that it brings in two minorities into the lead role.  As actors, John Cho (American Wedding, Solaris) and Kal Penn (Love Don't Cost a Thing, Malibu's Most Wanted) usually get work by playing off semi-offensive stereotypes in mainstream films.  It's pretty unfortunate, but luckily, both, particularly Cho, have found decent work in small films of varying quality (American Desi, Better Luck Tomorrow, and Pavilion of Women) that allows them to play characters more three-dimensional than their other roles.  And then there's Harold & Kumar.  While this movie does not play up negative stereotypes, it does rely on some of the less offensive ones, and usually it's the white people that bear the brunt of the satire.

Harold & Kumar is all about trying to entertain the viewer, and in this respect, it succeeds.  It is a wacky, politically incorrect trip borne out of a major case of the munchies, brought on by some killer weed.  And what commercial should appear when Harold (Cho) and Kumar (Penn) are sitting on their sofas, high out of their minds?  White Castle of course.  And of course, there is no White Castle nearby, forcing the duo to drive quite a distance to locate one.  The whole thing sounds easier than it will turn out to be, since tow-truck driving hicks, arrogant co-workers, rabid raccoons, Ivy League nerds, and a slew of guest stars including Neil Patrick Harris (Undercover Brother, The Next Best Thing) in an amusing role as Neil Patrick Harris, all butt in to delay the trip to White Castle.

The journey slowly adopts epic proportions, as Harold and Kumar's slowly morph into Odysseus.  All they want is to go to White Castle, and the more that stops them, the more determined they become. There's not much of a story, so screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg wisely fill screen time with joke after joke.  Like most movies, the laugh to joke ratio is pretty low, but it's better than usual.  There is a manic, weird sort of energy permeating Harold & Kumar, so the viewer instantly knows that this movie is not quite normal.  The film never takes itself too seriously, and the tone remains silly for pretty much the entire duration.

Cho and Penn also make a nice duo.  They are in the basic mold of neurotic guy (Cho) and crazy guy (Penn).  Harold pines after his neighbor Maria (Paula Garces, Marci X, The Station Agent), but is too shy to make a move.  Kumar's family wants him to be a doctor, but he would rather laze about and do nothing.  It's fairly obvious where director Danny Leiner (Dude, Where's My Car?, Layin' Low) is going with these two, but it doesn't feel that bad that everybody knows.  Penn and Cho slip easily into their roles, and play easily off each other, causing the film to move smoother.  Even as things get extremely far-fetched and unrealistic, it's still amusing to watch.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 28 minutes, Rated R for strong language, sexual content, drug use, and some crude humor.

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