It takes some creative writing to get past “being high is funny.” You need far more than that to make a film work, and luckily for low budget stoner comedy Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, they got more and then some. At its heart are two main characters who can offer the entertainment value needed to sustain a movie with absolutely no plot other than get from point A to point B.
John Cho was probably best know for being one of the “MILF” guys from American Pie, and Kal Penn had a funny bit in Van Wilder, but then Harold and Kumar happened. Even with a meager $18 million box office, the film gained a strong following and has lived on purely due to those two actors.
That’s the only way a movie about two stoned geniuses (really) who crave White Castle can work. The movie doesn’t play off of the expected racial stereotypes, but lets the audience gain a decent glimpse of who the characters are before the completely ridiculous scenario begins. Penn plays a gifted medical student (ironic given his recent role in the TV series House), and Cho is excellent at – and dedicated to – his desk job.
Their adventure is one of complete absurdities, including cheetah riding, hang gliding, frat parties, creepy tow truck drivers, and Doogie Howser. Suspension of disbelief is a must, but the script is zany from the start. A number of subtle moments are purely based on the performance of the leads, including a musical performance in a car that is a classic moment.
While it’s hard to take any of this as intellectually stimulating comedy, it’s hard not to become part of this one night escapade with these two potheads. They’re instantly likeable, carrying a charisma and charm you wouldn’t expect. Even the intended gross out humor manages to draw laughs, simply because you’re involved.
Compared to the sequel, this first outing for the stoned duo is lackluster in HD. Some rough edge enhancement can be spotted, faces look overly waxy (more than likely due to some digital noise reduction), the transfer is soft, and compression artifacts are noticeable. Colors are strong, if not a bit oversaturated. If anything, at least the black levels are solid, because nothing else here works.
Likewise, the 7.1 audio mix is completely forgettable. Front-loaded almost for its entirety, there’s little of note here. The minor surround use is usually a car moving front to back, though certainly nothing spectacular. The two extra rears are never taken advantage of, though there’s not much opportunity either.
White Castle is overloaded with three commentaries, mostly unnecessary beyond the first with the crew. Four featurettes follow that up, including the aptly title Art of the Fart, a serious look at what a sound guy has to go through to get the appropriate noises needed for a specific scene. It’s as immature as anything you’ll see this decade, but it’s still damn funny.
Cast and crew interviews run a total of 20 minutes, many with a promotional side to them. Eight deleted and alternate scenes will only eat up a short amount of your time, while the brief collection of outtakes run close to three minutes.
Contrary to the film’s dialogue, there is no White Castle in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Today, the closest White Castle is in Jersey City, New Jersey. That’s about 15 minutes out from where the film actually starts, which, if you knew the area, means they were headed in the wrong direction for the entire flick.