Sex, drugs, White Castle not the ingredients for success

Thursday, July 29, 2004

If you are trying to decide if the new film Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is for you, here is a simple test to help with your decision.

If you consider Dude, Wheres My Car? an underappreciated comedic masterpiece, then you can skip the rest of this review and head right on out to the theaters.

If you have no idea what movie I was just talking about, then this probably isnt the film for you.

The premise is simple Harold and Kumar are a couple of 20-something stoners who decide on a whim during one of their drug-induced stupors to journey to White Castle.

But instead of just getting their burgers and allowing me to avoid the pain of having to give up 90 minutes of my life, the duo hit plenty of roadblocks on their way to burger bliss.

Some jokes have their moments. Ill admit Neil Patrick Harris from Doogie Howser has a hilarious cameo playing (big stretch) Neil Patrick Harris searching for drugs and hookers. There are also a couple of minor laughs involving a cheetah and a crazed auto mechanic.

But for the most part the jokes either arent funny, just plain gross (a flatulence contest between a couple of college coeds is still pretty disgusting just to think about), or borderline offensive (racist cops arent funny in any film).

The screenplay and I use the term screenplay loosely does try to play off those stereotypes, but it doesnt soften the dread and muck that continues to pile onscreen.

I guess I could give bonus points to Harold and Kumar for casting an Indian and an Asian in the lead roles, but honestly, Im not sure if this is a step forward for minorities or two steps back. To their credit, John Cho and Kal Penn do have a nice chemistry, even if they are stuck in a dead-end film.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Harold and Kumar is the blatant product placement of the popular restaurant White Castle. Its like watching a 90-minute infomercial, but if I were White Castle Im not sure this is the best way to advertise my product.

Dont get me wrong, there will be an audience for this film. Its just too bad that something like this gets wide distribution, when an infinitely superior film like Before Sunset gets minimal release.

Then again, I guess theres no accounting for good taste.

Dollar dud of the week

Its yet another dandyless week on the discount circuit (how about a little Dodgeball or Harry Potter action folks?) so this weeks dud is the film that set the bar low for the summer blockbusters Van Helsing (D+).

Like last summers League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the film tries (unsuccessfully) to meld popular literary figures into a rousing action-adventure, as the film centers around Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) and his quest to save a Transylvanian heiress (Kate Beckinsale) from Count Draculas evil grips.

The films best moments come early, but pretty soon it shifts into campy mode with humor that falls flat.

Jackman isnt very good here and Beckinsale should have learned her lesson from Underworld.

Van Helsing is playing at the Plaza 6, where all movies are $1.

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