"Flashes of brilliance and stretches of stupidity."
I'll keep this review short and quick, for several obvious reasons: 1. It's a self-admitted little pot comedy that doesn't require a huge flourish of introduction, 2. The movie itself is short and quick, 3. I just smoked weed and have to go get some McDonald's food. (We don't have White Castles here in Philadelphia.)The first impressive thing I noticed about Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was that it seemed to have its comedy phasers set for spoof, as if this was not going to be a Van Wilder sort of teen farce, but a Not Another Teen Movie sort of teen parody. Early on in the movie we're presented with silly self-referential humor and resoundingly raunchy material that all but pukes on the P.C. Handbook.
So far, so good. The movie's about two surprisingly likable potheads who begin their well-earned weekends with a heap of hits from the bong. Then a White Castle commercial drifts on to the TV screen. Suddenly H & K simply MUST have a few dozen of those teeny little WC burgers. So out they go.
And that's the plot: potheads want burgers. You were expecting Jane Austen?
Deviation from well-established formulae is always a welcome sight, and it's in the casting decisions that HK hits a homer. Whereas most movies of this sort would star either two cool white guys or two slick black guys, this movie stars Kal Penn (who is Indian) and John Cho (who is Asian). Obviously a movie needs to do more than just commit to multi-racial casting, but that alone is a step in the right direction. Take into account that Penn and Cho are very funny young guys who share a sincerely endearing chemistry together...and then you're actually getting somewhere.
Alas, the movie derails. Quite often actually. It's the same complaint I had with the generally entertaining Not Another Teen Movie. For 25 minutes it was pure parody and straight spoof all the way. Granted, not all the jokes were golden, but the material was strictly satirical in nature. And then...as if the filmmakers didn't have enough confidence in the 'spoof' angle....in came the moronic jokes about feces and flatulence. Not Another Teen Movie became precisely what it was trying to condemn, and the movie suffered mightily for it.
Same thing happens here. We're given lots of sly and snarky humor, the sort of material that generates goodwill from a demanding comedy fan...and then <boom> time for the Loud Fart jokes and the Rabid Animal in the Car gags. A perfectly subversive little comedy feels the need to wallow in the exact same schtick you'll find in even the most basic Teen Comedy.Either way, it's a noticeable step up for director Danny Leiner, whose previous effort was "Dude Where's My Car?" If you're among those who giggled at the trailer before calling your friends up to say "Dude. Harold and Kumar. Looks funny." - then odds are you'll find a solid case of chuckles within. Those who saw the title and thought "Good Lord, how moronic" need not apply. Obviously.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.