A simple goal can often result in a confounding nightmare, as the title characters of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle learn the hard way. Harold Lee (John Cho) is a meek, mistreated investment banker who has been handed over his lazy supervisor’s workload for the weekend. Because of his dedication to building himself up in the company, he accepts the job. His best friend and roommate, Kumar (Kal Penn), is the polar opposite: lackadaisical, outspoken, and carefree. What they do share in common is a love for the finest illegal herbs in the country…and the expected appetite that follows.
But the mismatched stoners decide that they have had enough of the same old meal. In a quest to find food as nourishing as it is rewarding, the pair make their way to the famed White Castle. On the way, they encounter numerous obstacles, including a pair of horny, flatulent college girls, a racist, jock-like police officer, and a group of tormenting peers who revel in anything they consider to be “extreme.”
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is a simple, brain-dead chuckler that might as well have been called Dude, Where’s My Burger?, given that it is helmed by Dude, Where’s My Car? director Danny Leiner. Much like that film, here we have an offbeat adventure comedy about two well-intentioned stoner-types on a delightfully inane misadventure. Similarly, the emphasis is kept mostly on trippy sight gags.
The most uproarious of which, is a three-minute daydream fantasy of Kumar’s. As he is breaking Harold free from a jail cell, he notices an economy-size bag of marijuana sitting on an unguarded desk in an empty police station. Immediately, he dreams of the future he and the “weed” may have: running through the grassy knolls (the marijuana now in the form of a giant bag, with arms), making passionate love, exchanging vows at the alter, etc.). And just when you think one of the most brilliant sight gags ever conceived has hit its peak, it escalates further, to show Kumar yelling at the marijuana because he is stressed out by financial difficulties and later exclaiming “I Love You!” apologetically.
The film is laden with cameos, one of which features eccentric character actor Jamie Kennedy as a creepy businessman wandering the forest as Kumar relieves himself over some bushes. Kennedy, whose strangeness often made viewers uncomfortable on “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment,” goes about here as if he can hear a laugh track, only no one is laughing. Equally strange is a cameo by Christopher Meloni (star of “Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit”), as a friendly mechanic named “Freakshow,” who gives the title characters a lift after their car breaks down.
The reason their trip to White Castle is such a surprising success is the pair themselves. This is a standard Odd Couple story about a slave to the system and a rebel to the system whose relationship proves that opposites attract. Though each has a lifestyle that might either be considered commendable or appealing, they learn from each other. In the end, these dorks teach one another valuable lessons: Harold learns to speak up and Kumar gets his act together. It is a rare teen comedy that sends its viewers away somewhat enlightened.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is very much like a meal at White Castle, assuming you appreciate fast food every now and then: easy to digest, tasty, but of little nutritional value. It may not be “what you crave,” but it will certainly hit the spot.