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Laramie Movie Scope:
Harold & Kumar go to White Castle

A stoner comedy classic

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 6, 2023 – I buy a lot of blurays in pawn shops and thrift stores (where the going rate for blurays nowadays is $1 to $4). Recently, I bought all three of the Harold and Kumar movies. I had seen “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” (2008) and “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” (2011) before, but I had never seen the first movie in the trilogy (released in 2004) “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle” before a couple of nights ago.

I had heard this movie is funny, but I had no idea how funny it really is (funnier than the sequels, by the way). It is hilarious, unless you are hung up on political correctness or insist on conformity to social norms. If you just go with the flow of this outrageous comedy, it is a joy to watch. I'm no expert on stoner movies, but I think this one has got to be a classic of the genre.

Harold Lee (John Cho of recent “Star Trek” movies) is a hard-working investment banker, who is pressured into doing the work of other employees over the weekend. Depressed, Harold and his carefree roommate Kumar Patel (Kal Penn of “The Namesake”) smoke some marijuana, get the munchies and decide to go to a White Castle restaurant they used to frequent years ago.

They arrive at the location, only to find the restaurant has been replaced with another burger joint. An employee at the drive up window tells them of another White Castle restaurant that they can find in another suburb. They set off in search of White Castle and more weed, stopping at Princeton University, where their illegal activities are discovered by campus security, forcing them to flee.

What follows is a series of crazy misadventures involving an escaped cheetah, the promiscuous wife a strange tow truck driver, a possibly rabid raccoon, a gang of small time thugs that keep showing up wherever they go, and a drunken, sex-crazed Neil Patrick Harris of “Gone Girl,” playing himself, who causes the pair to temporarily lose their car.

During this night of smoking and adventure, both Harold and Kumar come to the realization that life is short, and they have both been too passive, just drifting along aimlessly and not taking charge of their own lives. Kumar comes to the realization that he needs to be more responsible. Harold realizes that he has been letting people push him around too much, and he needs to be more assertive.

It is the nature of this sort of comedy that Harold and Kumar manage to escape all the dangers they face with no consequences, including getting out of jail. In addition to crazy comedy, and there is a lot of that, the movie also includes some insight into racial profiling and racial stereotypes (including a hilarious police sketch).

Several actors in the movie, in addition to John Cho and Kal Penn, became regulars in the trilogy of Harold and Kumar movies. These regulars include Neil Patrick Harris, Rosenberg (Eddie Kaye Thomas of “American Pie”) Goldstein (David Krumholtz of “The Santa Clause”) and Maria (Paula Garcés of “Clockstoppers”). Obviously, the names of characters Rosenberg and Goldstein refer to the characters Rosencrantz and Gildenstern from Shakespeare's play “Hamlet” and, centuries later, Tom Stopperd's play and film, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”).

John Cho (Harold) and Kal Penn (Kumar) form a perfectly matched comic pair in this movie, with the uptight Harold being constantly punked, prodded and egged on by the carefree Kumar. This dynamic evolves over the course of the movie. Their reactions to the adventures they share during the course of the movie powers this story and provides the basis for the comedy. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2023 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]