Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle (2004)

Rating: B-

Dir: Danny Leiner
Star: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Paula Garces

Chris laughed like a drain during this one. Me, not so much. Which is weird, because usually our senses of humour are largely in tune. Of course, Chris grew up in the corner of the US where this is set, so all the local references made rather more sense than to me, who had to work backwards: “ah, this is supposed to be funny, therefore Newark must be a violent town, right?” Ditto, White Castle: I’ve driven by this burger chain in New York, but the whole cultural significance went over my head. [Bizarrely, I believe the chain didn’t actually pay for the massive product placement they receive here] But that’s kinda the point: if it had been Harold and Kumar Go To McDonald’s, this would have been over in five minutes, since there’s one on every corner.

Not, I should stress, that this wasn’t entertaining: the two stoner buddies who decide they positively must get White Castle, and will not let anything – cheetahs, arrest or Neil Patrick Harris – get in their way, are fine, well-observed characters. They inhabit a surreal world where bizarre stuff happens; Harold freaks out; Kumar deals with it; Chris cracks up and I smile benignly; rinse, repeat. But it does tread a fine line between idiocy and obnoxiousness rather nicely, with the ethnicity of the two heroes both vital and irrelevant – it affects more how people relate to them, then how they behave. Claiming this is intelligent would be insane, but at the worst it’s harmless, and has its share of memorable moments too.