Monday 31 March 2008


Harold and Kumar (2004) dir. Danny Leiner
Starring: Kal Penn, John Cho


With the upcoming release of, yes, the NEW “Harold and Kumar” film, a new edition of the original film arrives this week on DVD. The inspired idiocy of “Harold and Kumar” is both dumber and smarter than most other college/stoner/road comedies of its kind.

Harold is played by John Cho, an investment analyst whose shyness has allowed other colleagues take advantage of his pencil-pushing proclivity. Kumar Patel (Kal Penn), a naturally gifted post-grad who can smoke pot and fuck around and still ace his MCATs. After night of serious pot-smoking Harold and Kumar get the ‘craving’ for a helping of White Castle burgers. That’s all the motivation they need to get into all sorts of trouble on the long but adventurous journey from across New Jersey in search of their beloved fast food.

The film is actually a very clever twist on the racial stereotypical roles both Kal Penn and John Cho have been forced to play over the course their careers. The marketing campaign even cleverly self-effaced its stars – the trailer teased us with “the brown guy from Van Wilder and the Asian guy from American Pie”. The film combines racial stereotypes aimed all shapes, sizes and colours, but by no means tells a message bigger than pot is good, White Castle is good and the start what you finish attitude that has given them success academically.

“Harold and Kumar’s” strength is in it’s interminably likeable lead characters. Not all the gags succeed. There’s, some low low brow toilet humour and multiple trippy fantasy sequences. More gags stick than miss though which elevate the film beyond other stoner films of its kind – “Dude, Where’s My Car” and “Van Wilder”

It turns out “Harold and Kumar” has proven to outsmart its marketplace. The film was a quiet success in 2004 making a respectable $18million against its tiny $9million budget. But it wasn’t until its DVD release that is garnered its cult audience. And it was its repeated showings on TBS years later that the film edged itself permanently into pop culture history.

Several other serendipitous pop culture happenings gave “Harold and Kumar” even more cache. Just as the film hit the TBS schedule in 2006, Neil Patrick Harris, who gave the film a memorable debaucherous cameo as an tailing-chasing coke-snorting version of himself, came out of the closet as being gay. Instead of tanking his career the publicity gave him a well-deserved career-boost. And on the TV at the same time Harris’ sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” which has him playing featured a similar egomaniacal character as his role in H&K was finding its audience.

And so it was inevitable Penn, Cho and Harris would return for a sequel, “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanemo Bay”. The new film will be released in April, and we’ll have to see how higher expectation will affect its box office success. I haven’t seen a wide release sequel for “Van Wilder” or “Dude, Where’s My Car Yet?” Enjoy.

"Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" is available this week on DVD this week from New Line and Alliance Films Home Entertainment


Anonymous said...

I think you meant "coke snorting"

Alan Bacchus said...

Thanks Freealonzo - that was a nasty typo!