Harold (Cho), a Korean-American investment banker with a report to file, and Kumar (Penn), an Indian-American student facing a vital interview at medical school, smoke grass to chill out. When hunger strikes, they realise that only White Castle burgers will hit the spot and set off on a surreal all-night adventure to find some…
Danny Leiner's magnum opus - Dude, Where's My Car? - may have been awful, but there's no denying the genius in that title, and, for the follow-up, it's good to see the muse hasn't left him. In fact, it's blossomed; where Dude was a skimpy ragbag of ideas strung together by the goofy coupling of Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott, Harold And Kumar is a much better riff on the same formula, with richer characters and a tighter, though no less stupid, script.
It's also a strangely radical movie, putting two smart, white-collar ethnic guys in a genre that's designed for young, dumb caucasians. But Leiner rarely plays the race card - yes, H&K do face racism, especially from the cops, but this cheerful romp simply satirises it into yet another thing that gets between the duo and their burgers. Like the escaped cheetah, for example, or an E'd-up Doogie Howser, who steals their car to quench his lust for more drugs and lap dancers.
Crasser gags - like the excruciatingly awful 'battleshits' scene - spoil what could have been a fantastic comedy, but this is cleverer than it looks, inviting Middle America to accept two non-WASP character actors as leads and illegal drug use as a suitable premise for a sweet, romantic comedy. For that alone, it should be applauded.
Warm, crazily inventive and sometimes hysterical, but Harold And Kumar is bogged down by toilet humour and never quite fulfils its promise.
Reviewed by Damon Wise