I ran across Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle on Hulu the other night and realized I’d never sat down and watched the entire thing, so I decided to give it a go. This film is of course the first in what turned out to be a trilogy of Harold and Kumar films. These films serve as escapist R rated comedy and at least for this one’s sake – it does a pretty good job satisfying that desire. This isn’t one of my absolute favorite comedy films or anything but I do enjoy it and there’s really one main reason – Kal Penn and John Cho. These two and their fun chemistry make this film a lot of fun, even when the comedy doesn’t land as well as it should.
The talents of Kal Penn and John Cho really do keep this thing from sinking and disappearing into oblivion. They have such a strong likability factor that makes you root for them. Even though Kumar is very juvenile and definitely makes questionable choices, the film prioritizes making him out to be an overall good guy. That is very important because if that isn’t made a priority at all then the main characters just become annoying asses that I do not want to root for.
Their chemistry as best friends and roommates is top notch, which is of course essential for any good buddy film. The rest of the cast is also pretty good in their individual roles, with Neil Patrick Harris and Anthony Anderson standing out. Anthony Anderson actually gave me the hardiest laugh of the whole film during his one scene. He just does awkward/crazy comedy really well.
I will say that the cast members I did not enjoy in this were Christopher Meloni and Malin Akerman. They’re both talented and it’s not that they were poor in this it’s just that I hated their characters and that whole segment of the film. Maybe some people thought that part was funny but I just found it really gross and flat.
In my opinion this film’s comedy is at its lowest when it’s trying to do gross out stuff. When it veers into scatological or other bodily humor, it falls pretty flat and becomes dull. But, where this film’s comedy flourishes in in the comedic commentary on racial stereotypes. There are a good many jokes about racial realities in America and they land almost 100% of the time. And besides being genuinely funny, they’re also driving home a message about race, one that needed to be sent then and unfortunately still today. That is what I call intelligent comedy and I value that a lot more than toilet/gross out humor.
Now there is one sure fire giveaway that this film was made in 2004 and that’s the gay jokes. They are not abundant thankfully but they are present here and there and unlike the jokes about race, the jokes about gays aren’t intelligent or affirming. I don’t think any of the gay jokes in this would be in a mainstream comedy film today.
Another thing about this that isn’t so great is the poor CGI used. The special effects used for stunts in this are very obviously fake. Some may not care a lot about that but I do wish those scenes where that is used looked more realistic because it takes away from those scenes. Overall, there’s a decent pace to this, it makes sure not to overstay it’s welcome. The runtime for this is an hour and a half, it gets in and out fairly quickly which is smart because with an all night comedy film like this, you can’t stretch things out too much. The ending is pretty solid, it ends on a big high note with both the leads tying up their loose ends.
Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle has its flaws for sure but the good outweighs the bad here. The smart funny comedic commentary on race in America and the two leads infectious chemistry is what makes this worth a watch.
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