'Harold & Kumar': Good Buzz
By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 30, 2004; Page WE34
STONER-TYPE comedies like "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" and "Dude, Where's My Car?" haven't been a complete white-out. Let us not forget the Cheech and Chong flicks, which featured a Mexican and a Chinese in their perpetual quest to stay high. So perhaps it's best to say the frequently hilarious "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" brings multiculturalism back to the bong circle.
After all, the "dudes" in this movie are Harold (John Cho), a twenty-something Korean American investment banker, and his roommate-pal Kumar (Kal Penn), an Indian American med school student who is assured a lucrative career if he'd only accept his family-arranged destiny. Culturally, they're single American couch potatoes, just like millions of others in their twenties. And they like to smoke it up. But these two know the double-standard deal. People assume things about them. Some make fun of Kumar's accent. Being a stoner can have its problems.
After a serious case of the munchies, the friends find themselves with a craving for one thing and one thing only: the buy-'em-by-the-bag cheeseburgers of White Castle. No other fast food will do. They take off on a quest that proves, in its charmingly dumb way, to be mythic.
"No matter what," says Kumar, "we are not ending this night without White Castle in our stomachs."
First setback: The White Castle they had in mind is closed. Now it's a Burger Shack. Not the same thing. Harold and Kumar then make the fateful decision: to drive to the next White Castle location, some 45 miles away.
Their trip to the White Castle restaurant becomes a Holy Grail mission on the Jersey Turnpike, a journey of unexpected mysteries, including an ill-fated diversion to Princeton University (which could provoke an even bigger surge in college applications this year), scary animals (crazed raccoon in the car! and omigod, is that a cheetah?!!!), out-there encounters with racist cops, a gang of bigoted dudes at a convenience store and a phantom redneck with oozy boils on his face who insists they sleep with his gorgeous wife.
Along the way, they also pick up hitchhiker Neil Patrick Harris (playing himself), the onetime star of "Doogie Howser, M.D.," who's clearly zoned out on something. He proves to be an alarmingly scary passenger.
Let it not go unsaid that "Harold & Kumar" doesn't hesitate to, uh, plunge into toilet humor. But hey, as long as you're in the bathroom, you might as well be funny. Screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are amusingly inventive about anything, from this crude business to the crazy animal stunts. Director Danny Leiner (who, actually, directed "Dude, Where's My Car?") has made a peppy, satisfying comedy that could soon become a minor classic. And by the time our red-eyed heroes find the elusive White Castle -- which you know they eventually must -- their satisfaction feels as powerful as any food-eating I've seen on screen.
HAROLD & KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE (R, 87 minutes) -- Contains obscenity, nudity, drug use and crude humor. Area theaters.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Kumar (Kal Penn, left), Harold (John Cho) and Lianne (Malin Akerman) in "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle."
(Sophie Giraud -- New Line Productions)