Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Harold and Kumar Go To Whitecastle. Extreme Unrated Remastered edition! Out today. (*******7/10)

Harold and Kumar will soon be going to Guantanamo Bay, on the big screens. So it would only make sense that Alliance Films would release the original movie, yet again, in time for the new film to hit theatres. Whitecastle, for those of you who don't spend a lot of time in the States, is a burger joint that sells these cute little square hamburgers that are delicious. The name-dropping in the title of this movie is not (I am assuming) some kind of nefarious product placement, it is merely an indication of the love that the counter-culture in the U.S. has for this particular fast-food chain. (The Beastie Boys have referenced Whitecastle several times over the course of their career.) It is the ultimate stoner fast food, and fat guys like me love it as well because we can eat eleven or twelve burgers at a time. The reference to Whitecastle in the title of this film is more an indication of the popularity of the chain among the stoner crowd, and not a random fast-food selection at all. Harold And Kumar go to McDonalds? No. Burger King? Don't think so. Wendy's? Please. Were it not Whitecastle, Big Kahuna Burger might be the only other place that would make sense.

And there is set the tone of the film. Yes, there have been hundreds, even thousands, of these irritating teen-stoner comedies. Or college-stoner comedies, or young-man-in-a-boring-job stoner comedies. But few of them have been as funny as this one. There are definitely stupid, pointless and terrible moments. Riding a cheetah? The old guy with the sores on his face? Come on. Horrible stuff in an otherwise excellent movie. What makes Harold and Kumar work are the stars, Kal Penn (who was recently very, very good in The Namesake and very, very bad in Van Wilder The Rise of Taj) and John Cho, (who was really irritating as the "MILF" guy in American Pie, and has been very good in small TV roles ever since). The chemistry between Penn and Cho is terrific, and they come off as our buddies. We all know guys just like this. Guys who are great, regular, fairly boring guys in everyday life, but who become a little crazy when the idea of getting stoned enters their head on the weekends. They are not the totally useless stoners who sit on their couches and eat Doritos and barely get up when you come over, but rather the ultimate weekend warriors who want to think weed is their way of life, but are wrong. They are stoner-poseurs. Or, at least, Cho is.

So the quest, while it begins as a search for Whitecastle, turns into a search for weed, which then becomes a hunt for girls, and then an escape from the law, and then returns, full circle, to Whitecastle. And while there are the obligatory gross-out jokes (battlesh**s), and the over-the-top moments (hang-gliding), it's the little things that make this movie better than average. Doogie Howser - Neil Patrick Harris - shows up. As himself. With cocaine and hookers. And he steals their car. An inspired bit of casting. The scenes with John Cho trying to avoid the young woman his family wants him to date are perfect in their realism and simplicity. And the writing of the dialogue between the two stars is bang-on. This new Extreme! Unrated! Edition! is really nothing new. The special features are actually more juvenile than the movie, with the exception of a "back-seat" interview with Cho and Penn. And for those who are Harold and Kumar fanatics (you know who you are, ya stoners) there is a pretty extensive sneak peek at the upcoming Guantanamo film. If you've already seen this movie, don't bother. If you haven't, at least this gives you the chance to do so again. Just be ready to totally shut off your brain.

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