DVD Review: Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle

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In the summer of 2004, John Cho and Kal penn finally made their first major breakthrough in Hollywood. Cho and Kal Penn have been working diligently for years often in secondary roles . Cho was most famous for his role in the WB sitcom “Off Centre” and “American Pie”. Kal Penn was known for his role in the teen comedy “Van Wilder.” Finally, John Cho and Kal Penn were given the opportunity to shine in the leading roles of Harold Lee and Kumar Patel in the stoner comedy “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle”.

Although “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle ” made $18 million at the box office the movie gained cult status due to DVD sales. Since the DVD sales for the first movie were huge a sequel will be released on April 25th 2008. There is more pressure on Cho and Penn because MTV wants the movie to be at least a moderate box office hit. Hollywood is slowly making progress realizing there is an audience that desires to see Asian American men as leading men in the movies. Cho and Penn certainly have the sex appeal and the talent to cross racial boundaries.

Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle” has received a lot of press because the leads are two young Asian American male actors. John Cho is Korean American and Kal Penn is Indian American. Harold and Kumar are also not nerds they are two intelligent, ambitious, and attractive young men. Cho and Penn definitely are eye candy and have the potential to become Hollywood superstars.

The plot is simple Harold and Kumar are two young Asian American men that are restless, sexually frustrated, and also craving some weed. Harold Lee is a junior analyst at a business firm he is hardworking but also lonely and depressed because he has no love life . Harold is an attractive man, yet he has no self esteem he doesn’t believe he is worthy of true love.

The only woman that showers Harold with attention is a young Asian American female Cindy Kim. Cindy is a student at Princeton University she is also the president of the East Asian club. Cindy is attracted to Harold and she is stereotyped in the movie as a nerd. Harold is nice to Cindy they talk a lot but he’s not interested in Cindy he fears he will have to date an Asian American woman. Harold even says Cindy calls him a “twinkie” yellow on the outside and white in the middle. I do have a problem with the Cindy Kim character why is an Asian American woman stereotyped as just a nerd?

I kind of wish the movie explored Harold’s fascination with Maria a bit more. Maria is depicted in the film as Latina but she clearly is a white hispanic. The writers of Harold &  Kumar are white males and they are promoting the racist stereotype that men of colour have an insatiable desire for just white women.  Why was Harold so against dating an Asian American woman? What was so wrong with Cindy Kim? Cindy’s kind of cute I didn’t understand what was wrong with Cindy? Is Harold interested in Maria more because she’s from a different culture?

It is easy to understand why Harold would be sexually attracted to Maria she is svelte, sexy, curves in all the right places. I wasn’t sure what to think of the character Maria? Maria hardly has any lines and she appears to just be a sex object for Harold’s sexual desires. By contrast, Cindy Kim is stereotyped as an aggressive, desperate, unattractive, nerdy, Asian student. Is the movie trying to say ambitious women are not appealing to heterosexual men? Why was Cindy Kim such a caricature? I think if Cindy Kim was less of a caricature perhaps this would have been more interesting?

Kumar Patel he is an aspiring medical student he’s a bit more outgoing than Harold and kind of is the leader. One evening after Harold returns from work he and Kumar decide to instead of eating KFC or take out they crave White Castle hamburgers. Kumar appears to be in love with no one except his desire and craving for weed. There is even a funny sequence when Kumar marries a bag of weed although I did cringe when Kumar uses scatological language to describe his “wife”.

Harold and Kumar definitely has some funny moments for instance Neil Patrick Harris plays an extreme role of himself as a womanizing heterosexual drug user. According to media reports Harris was hesitant of taking the role because he first thought the movie was going to make fun of him. The screenwriters actually wrote a role specifically for Harris. Another funny scene is Chris Meloni’s cameo “Freakshow”. “Freakshow” is a Christian man that looks like a grotesque monster out of an old Halloween movie.

Some women may not like “Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle” because the female characters really have no purpose other than being sex objects . There is also female nudity in the movie this might be a turn off for some women as well. I have read in the sequel there will be more balance there will definitely be male nudity so that’s fair. There is also some jokes in the film that may be interpreted by some as homophobia. I didn’t think the movie was homophobic at all. I think the movie was trying to demonstrate that Harold and Kumar have an intense platonic friendship some people may interpret as homoeroticism. There is a really cool scene the Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds is a male nurse. After operating on a patient Reynold’s character starts hitting on Kumar telling him he likes his “chocolate lips”. There is also another scene where Kumar is licking Harold’s face after he passes out.

I think this is perhaps the main weakness in the film. In one scene two female English foreign exchange students talk to Kumar at Princeton and tell him they wouldn’t mind smoking a joint with him. Kumar tells Harold in an explicit manner what he thinks of the two English students. Perhaps Harold and Kumar is a way to peek into the minds of heterosexual men? Harold and Kumar isn’t meant to be a serious film it is a comedy. A part of me felt conflicted watching the film some feminists will not enjoy the crude humor. The sections of the movie I did enjoy is when the film explored the issue of race, racial profiling, becoming independent, and living your own dreams.

Kal Penn, John Cho, and Neil Patrick Harris all say the movie changed their lives and careers. Harris credits the movie for launching his comeback on to television on the CBS show “How I Met Your Mother”. Kal Penn desperately wanted to audition for the male lead in Mira Nair’s “The Namesake”. Cho told Penn about “The Namesake” while filming “Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle”. Penn and Cho attempted to buy the rights to “The Namesake” but learned they were too late. Penn started an aggressive campaign to obtain Nair’s attention but this proved futile. The reason Kal Penn got an audition for “The Namesake” is because Nair’s teen son was a fan of “Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle”. John Cho credits the film for giving him the opportunity to be one of the stars in the new Star Trek film.

Harold and Kumar isn’t rocket science the chemistry between Cho and Penn makes the movie endearing. You sense that Cho and Penn genuinely like each other and get along well. The magic to the film is the fact you are rooting for Harold and Kumar not just to reach White Castle but to gain independence and start to live their lives on their own terms.

About orvillelloyddouglas

I am a gay black Canadian male.

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