While Cheech and Chong's career is the exception that proves the rule, there was a time when Caucasians possessed an apparent monopoly on lead roles in dopey, lowbrow stoner comedies and raunchy teen-targeted fare. Happily, cinema and society have advanced to such a degree that now Asians, blacks, gays, and other minorities all have inept teen- and young-adult-oriented comedies to call their own. The wildly uneven but intermittently funny new feature-length fast-food commercial Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle fits squarely into this brave new paradigm. It boldly subverts stereotypes and challenges conventional wisdom by presenting affable Korean and Indian antiheroes who are just as sex-crazed, irresponsible, mischief-prone, and chemically altered as their white counterparts.
Danny Leiner's theatrical follow-up to 2000's Dude, Where's My Car?, which has enjoyed a surprising second life as a national punchline, Harold & Kumar stars John Cho and Kal Penn as twentysomethings with just two things on their minds: getting baked and grabbing White Castle food. Their devotion to White Castle alone establishes the film as a far-fetched comic fantasy. Cho and Penn display a level of brand loyalty remarkable for any business, let alone an establishment whose ostensibly meat-based products taste like soggy cardboard.
As in the similarly affable Dude, the heroes' seemingly simple quest devolves into a series of slapstick, scatological scenarios that feel more like loosely connected skits than a sustained narrative. Harold & Kumar is hit-or-miss by design, and while the misses outweigh the hits, the bar for films like this has been set so low that any cleverness whatsoever comes as a delightful surprise. Essentially After Hours For Dummies, White Castle has enough funny gags—most notably a montage sequence in which Penn romances a giant bag of pot and a self-deprecating cameo from Neil Patrick Harris—to make its misfires forgivable. The film also benefits considerably from the fact that its target audience is pretty much the most laughter-inclined demographic around.