Get local news delivered straight to your phone

Support City Paper!

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

The makers of movies for and about stoners have enough of a challenge simply getting their target audience off the couch, let alone holding its attention for 90 or so minutes. The problem must be all too obvious to director Danny Leiner, whose debut feature, 2000’s Ashton Kutcher–led Dude, Where’s My Car?, is arguably the least watchable entry in a genre already teeming with witless fare. It would be difficult not to improve on such an initial offering, and though Leiner’s new Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle is by no means a very good movie, it does quickly distance itself from Teutonic aliens and continuum transfunctioners. The plot is as simple-minded as the title implies: Lulled by the siren song of a White Castle commercial, office slave Harold and would-be med-school student Kumar—aka John Cho and Kal Penn, billed cheekily as “that Asian guy from American Pie” and “that Indian guy from Van Wilder”—head out into the night in search of “the feeling that comes over a man when he gets exactly what he desires.” The not exactly atypical gamut of roadblocks includes arrest, car theft, and a boil-infested Jesus freak who invites our heroes to fuck his wife. Still, much of this episodic film plays out like sketch comedy, with Cho’s Harold proving to be a fine straight man to Penn’s addled Kumar, and first-time scripters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg had at least one stroke of genius between them: Fleeing a misadventure at Princeton, the hapless duo unwisely pick up a hitchhiker, who turns out to be…Neil Patrick Harris. When grilled about his sexual conquests off the set, the former Doogie Howser, M.D., informs Kumar that he “humped every piece of ass on that show. Ever”—and then proceeds to hump the back seat. In fact, Leiner & Co.’s allusion-heavy storytelling works in their favor most of the time, from Harold’s following-morning encounter with car thief Harris (“Dude, where’s my car?”) to a Half-Baked–esque dream sequence that finds Kumar romancing a giant sack of weed. Such whimsy—not to mention Leiner’s willingness to use his, uh, oeuvre as a punch line—doesn’t quite put Harold & Kumar in the heady company of Up in Smoke and Dazed and Confused. But it does make for a movie worth seeing with a bud. —Chris Hagan