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Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle

What's in a name? I took one look at the title of the latest comedy from director Danny Leiner (Dude, Where's My Car?) and wondered why in the world anyone would want to see a movie about two guys searching for a White Castle. I took a closer look at the title and the poster and figured that even less people would want to see it because it starred a Korean (John Cho) and an Indian (Kal Penn). After seeing the film once, I loved it so much that I went back for seconds... and thirds.

Coming off of the hit Dude Where's My Car?, Leiner was against doing another buddy comedy, but "one of the things that attracted me to the (Harold and Kumar) script... [was] the appeal of something unique that I hadn't seen before." A buddy comedy starring two Asian-American men is certainly something new in American cinema, and having a major studio like New Line behind it, was almost unheard of. The marketing campaign muscle backing the movie has been intense. Kal wasn't surprised though. "It tested really well across different demographics that kind of broke the mold of a teen movie or a stoner movie... and if you look at New Line Cinema's other films, they've kind of pushed the envelope a little bit... and done the whole art-meets-business thing."

One of the keys to a successful buddy film is of course, having the guys appear to be best friends. John and Kal had never met before Harold and Kumar, but as John noted, they immediately bonded. "Being two actors of color in Hollywood, having gone through what we've gone through, and done this picture together... we're brothers in a way no one else is." Since filming ended and the press tour has ramped up, you almost never see one without the other - even in the pages of People magazine where both John and Kal were named two of the top 50 most eligible bachelors in Hollywood. Which, Kal said, "was about time," and made John feel "very vindicated."

Another big selling point in the film is the numerous cameo appearances. Famous faces like Jamie Kennedy, Anthony Anderson and Kal's old Van Wilder running buddy Ryan Reynolds are thrown in throughout the film. The most impressive appearance has to be from "Doogie Howser," a.k.a. Neil Patrick Harris, who plays himself. Well, a "relatively extreme version of" himself, as he put it. Harris, (who, surprisingly, did not have to audition for the role,) said that he wanted to make sure that there wasn't "too much of comedy at my expense." After reading the script, he realized the role was about "me being crazy as opposed to them making fun of me."

Getting White Castle to agree to be a part of the film turned out to be easier than expected. Many fast food chains would shudder at some of the antics that take place in this drug-induced comedy, but the cult burger chain didn't shy away. They even went so far as to induct John, Kal, Leiner and the writers, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg into the White Castle Hall of Fame. Leiner said they were given something to remember the occasion; "I have a plaque, it's really funny, it's got, like, a little burger on it... it's both the silliest and funnest thing I've ever gotten working on a movie"

Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle may very well be the silliest and funnest thing I've ever seen. It borders on the absurd, but based on the audience reaction that I've seen, the little movie with the strange title is destined to do well. After all, what's really in a name?

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reviewed 07/22/04

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