Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle: 2004, dir. Danny Leiner. Seen on DVD (March 4).
I know, I know. I am always complaining that I never have time to see wonderful little movies like Maria Full of Grace and The Cooler and whatever the hell is playing at Dobie right now … and yet somehow I managed to see Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Not only that, I deliberately and voluntarily rented this movie. I was not forced to see it against my will.
And I have to say that Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was pretty funny in a dumb-dumb comedy kind of way. I usually avoid dumb comedies because, okay, primarily because I don’t find them funny. I am willing to forgive a lot of things if a movie makes me laugh, like Bad Santa.

The biggest problem with Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is that the movie is supposed to be about looking beyond stereotypes: that Harold and Kumar are just these guys, you know? They shouldn’t be labelled because of their skin color. However, the film makes this point by making every single other character in the movie into a stereotype. Some of the stereotypes are downright painful to watch. (The sequence with Freakshow and his wife would have been right out of a Russ Meyer movie if Freakshow hadn’t been quite so, er, freakish and if his wife had been a little more buxom. Ah, if only they’d cast Charles Napier and Kitten Natividad.)
So it is best not to think about any potential messages conveyed in the movie and just enjoy the silliness of the storyline, in which Harold and Kumar get stoned and they know that nothing else will satisfy them but those little greasy square burgers from White Castle. Where can they find a White Castle, how can they get there, and how can they avoid the racist forces of evil that are preventing them from reaching their goal? And how the hell did Neil Patrick Harris get involved in all of this?
The movie is wildly uneven. Harold’s dream sequence, in which he and his dream girl meet in the land of the hamburgers, is cute and funny. Kumar’s dream sequence with the giant bag of pot is distastefully sexist. The scene with Fred Willard is amusing. The scene with the cheetah (I almost called it a leopard, but that’s another movie entirely) is just dumb. I didn’t like the scene with the raccoon, but then I have Traumatic Raccoon Issues. The homophobic bits really didn’t need to be in the movie at all.
Really, it’s best not to analyze this movie scene-by-scene, because then you start wondering what the hell you thought was so funny.
John Cho and Kal Penn are absolutely delightful as Harold and Kumar, and that is perhaps the reason why this movie actually works. Or maybe it’s just because the movie as a whole is so goofily over-the-top that you can’t possibly be offended by it. And when you are, you laugh anyway, because you can’t believe the movie actually went there, wherever that might be.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is not as smart and funny as Bad Santa or There’s Something About Mary. Still, I laughed and I didn’t walk out of the room or turn off the TV. I don’t need to see it again, but it’s a good movie to rent after a tiring day when you really don’t want to do much but vegetate in front of the TV with your sweetie.