Coming hot off of the success of Dude, Where’s My Car?, director David Leiner took what he learned from one mindless comedy and applied to another…with great results. Although Leiner didn’t return for the films sequel, his time spent on Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle will no doubt cause the film to go down in history as one of the greatest “stoner” films ever made. It certainly will not win any points for great writing, at least not in the Academy sense, but between the quick wit and hilarious situations, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is quite possibly one of the most effortlessly entertaining ways to spend eighty-eight minutes.
After clearing their schedules for the night, Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) get baked and soon get a craving for something they haven’t had in a long time. What starts out as a simple quest to cure their case of the munchies turns into an all-night adventure as the pair attempt to find their way to White Castle and end up battling their way through fraternity parties, overzealous traffic cops and even Neil Patrick Harris. Before long Harold and Kumar are on the run from the cops and the end of the road puts them directly in line with the delicious little burgers that they’d been searching for all night.
When the film was first released, I had no desire to see what this “stoner” comedy had to offer. I really wasn’t into that genre of comedy for whatever reason, but after realizing how funny the film actually looked, I gave in and rented the title prior to the sequel coming out. I was genuinely surprised by how much I laughed at the film and the sheer gross-out level of it all was right up there with other recent raunch comedies like American Pie and Van Wilder.
From the opening scenes alone I was strapped into the film and by the time Harold walked in on Kumar trimming his pubes, I was buckled in for the rest of the ride. I’m easy to please when it comes to comedies, especially of the R-rated variety. I know what I need from a comedy for my interest to survive throughout it and by the time this film barely even got started, my checklist had nearly been met. Later on the film the rest of my list was met and by the end of it I was as satisfied as Harold and Kumar when they got their hands on White Castle.
As stupid as the film is, there is some nicely woven storylines throughout that keep criss-crossing and driving into one another at opportune moments. You don’t blink when the missing cheetah shows up, but by the time they’re riding it across highways you begin to wonder what the hell is going on; it’s all OK though, as we’re then treated to an animated Burger Land sequence that is about seven different shades of weird.
I could go on and on about the rest of the characters in the film but I don’t think I can hold it back any longer: Neil Patrick Harris. What is essentially only a couple minutes of screen time in the film created one of the most memorable trio of sequences in the film and he alone had me eagerly anticipating the sequel to this film. A celebrity playing themselves is always humorous, especially when their personas are so obviously not their own as being show on the screen. It’s nothing short of a complete comedic treat to witness Harris on screen and by the end of his conversation with Harold and Kumar when they first meet up, I was clutching my side from laughter. He mentions things in the car I won’t print here, but….man. His performance is definitely one of the highlights of the film.
While it’s not my favorite comedy of all time, it is a very simple and stupid film to watch and one that you can easily come back and watch again and again. You won’t pick up on anything new on repeat viewings and by the third or fourth time you’ll be waiting more for the funny sequences than really wanting to check the film out again (when the Blu-ray first came I watched about ten minutes of the movie before skipping ahead to Harris’s debut…that was really all I wanted to watch at the time).
Overall the words “silly”, “stupid” and “dumb” aren’t always negative and in the case of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle…it’s never been truer. It’s a stupid movie to be sure, but that’s its charm and while I’m sure the film is funny as hell while high, that’s for another review. And another reviewer. Recommended.
The “Extreme Unrated” edition arrived on DVD courtesy of New Line Cinema back before Escape from Guantanamo Bay hit theaters (and apparently prior to that in 2005), so those who picked that title up won’t find anything new for this Blu-ray edition aside from the usual technical specifications…and what a fancy array of specifications they are! The packaging itself is a standard dual disc Blu-ray case, with the second disc housing the digital copy of the film and inserts include the code for the digital copy and a notice about keeping your player up-to-date. Disc art is a simple white castle burger inside of the wrapper and menus seem to be copied from the DVD release as well, as Kumar remarks to Harold that they’re “on DVD.” There are some humorous comments that come from this video of them driving, but the menu system is a bit confusing and is a mess to navigate through, as you’re constantly just moving right to get to new content. At least the font isn’t super tiny.
The technical specifications of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is a bit extreme (no pun intended…or maybe it was), but that’s just New Line’s M.O. for their home video releases. New Line and Lionsgate are the only two studios I know of that include 7.1 tracks on their Blu-ray’s and the 7.1 DTS H-HD Master Audio track included for this film is quite a delight to listen to. As one could expect from a comedy, it’s mostly front focused but there’s a nice back end to it for the films diverse soundtrack and the surrounds get used a bit during the driving sequences as well (which there are a lot of). The video is a bit soft and is a 1.85:1 VC-1 encoded transfer, but it does boast a nice array of colors which come through clean and clear. The detail is really lacking, however, and things get noticeably smoothed over on more than one occasion.
Moving onto the extras we get a repeat of all of the DVD extras, although some are presented here in 1080i/p. The first extras in high-definition are the “Deleted/Alternate Scenes” (14:22) and “Outtakes” (2:41) and they are, sadly, the only ones. Not even the “Harold and Kumar 2” red-band trailer is in high-definition, which is…really odd, although the “Harold and Kumar 2 Sneak Peek” (15:06) is in 1080i, so that’s something I guess. The deleted scenes and outtakes are a lot of fun to watch, but the outtake reel could have stood to be longer. There’s no way those are the only flubs.
The rest of the extras return in standard definition and audio quality and start off with the trio of audio commentaries with (1) director Danny Leiner and actors John Cho and Kal Penn, (2) writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, and (3) “Extreme” commentary with Danny Bouchard. The first track is the most entertaining to listen to, although the writers kick up a fair share of humor as well. The Bouchard track gets to be a bit old after awhile and you’ll likely shut it off way before the film finishes.
Presented solely in 480i/p we have “John Cho and Kal Penn: The Back Seat Interview” (12:58), a rather humorous interview conducted by Bobby Lee as they drive around…wherever it was they were. “The Art of the Fart” (10:39) is a semi-serious/semi-faux documentary on the sound recording for the film and will likely gross out those who find microphones recording poop noises from bathroom stalls offensive. “A Trip to the Land of Burgers” (10:44) discusses the animated sequence in the film, “White Castle Craver’s Hall of Fame” (3:08) is a short extra on the White Castle phenomenon. The rest of the extras include a “Music Video” (4:04) and a collection of trailers for the film.
Overall a solid release and definitely the “ultimate” edition of the film to own, but only for the technical specifications; the Harold and Kumar 2 extras really aren’t worth the upgrade if you already own this “Extreme Unrated” edition from 2005/2008, so with that in mind only pick this up if you’re a huge fan of the movie or don’t already own the DVD.
Previous Owners: Skip It
Fans and New Owners: Recommended.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle: Extreme Unrated Edition arrives on Blu-ray on July 29th. .