A fitting follow-up to director Danny Leiner's "Dude, Where's My Car?", "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" ("Harold and Kumar" from here on out) is another stoner comedy that went for the "R" rating and managed to keep its subject matter intact ("Dude" had a lot of its stoner references edited out to get a PG-13). The picture opens up with a white guy dropping his work on an Asian fellow co-worker, Harold (Korean actor John Cho, very funny). The picture then watches as Harold goes back to his place, where he and his roommate, Kumar (Kal Penn) proceed to get high.
On a quest to satisfy their munchies, the two of them go on a quest to find the nearest White Castle burger chain, a task that proves to be much less easy than they'd thought. Throughout the night, the two end up at an Ivy league school to score some pot and have Harold run into a meeting of the "Far East Club". There's also a strange, psycho tow truck driver and his hot wife; their two neighbors who spend their night trying to see Katie Holmes' breasts in "The Gift", picking up a hitchhiking Neil Patrick Harris, who we find has been using his "Doogie Howser" persona to try and pick up chicks right and left (Harold: "Did Doogie Howser just steal my car?") and finally, a series of jocks that pick on the heroes. Oh, and there's also the psychotic raccoon that somehow gets its way into the car.
The picture does certainly portray a solid friendship between the two leads while also providing the usual stoner theatrics (Kumar imagines a "life" with a giant bag of weed at one point) and gross-out jokes, such as two girls playing a bathroom version of "Battleship", trying to see who can make the louder movement. Although a criticism of many movies today is that there's simply a series of episodes, that's literally what this thinly-plotted picture is, but it works. The situations that the two get themselves into are inspired and often quite funny. The picture certainly isn't a classic, but it's a very amusing comedy that works surprisingly well.
I'm not sure regarding the "unrated" content on this DVD edition, as the runtime seems to be the same as listed on the Internet Movie Database, and I didn't see the movie theatrically.
VIDEO: "Harold and Kumar" is presented by New Line in 1.85:1 (1080p/VC-1). The film obviously isn't particularly slick visually, but the Blu-Ray presentation is certainly a sizable upgrade over the DVD editions. Sharpness and detail are not outstanding, but considering the material, fine detail and depth to the image do impress here. While there are some slight instances of noise on a few occasions and a couple of specks on the print, the presentation as a whole looked clean and clear. Colors also looked bright and warm, with excellent saturation and no smearing. Black level also looked top-notch. For a movie about getting hazy, "Harold and Kumar" looked anything but on this excellent Blu-Ray presentation.
SOUND: The film is offered on Blu-Ray in DTS HD-MA 7.1. This is really a "comedy" sound mix, with not a whole lot in the way of surround use. The picture mainly offers a nice spread across the front soundstage, with crisp music and well-recorded sound effects. Dialogue also remained natural and clear sounding. The film really didn't need to be presented in 7.1 audio as the mix is largely front-heavy, but the effort is appreciated.
EXTRAS: The DVD offers no less than three audio commentaries: one with director Danny Leiner and actors John Cho and Kal Penn, one with writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg and one with actor Danny Bochart, who plays one of the jocks in the film. The commentary with the director and the two actors is pretty amusing, as the two chat about working with the actors who work with bit parts (Ryan Reynolds, Neil Patrick Harris) in the film, discuss the story and characters and talk about some of the stories from the set.
"John Cho and Kal Penn: The Backseat Interview" is a 12-minute piece that has comic Bobby Lee interviewing the two stars as the three drive around. "The Art of the Fart" is a 10-minute piece that looks at the film's sound effects work, especially the bathroom scene. The sound designer literally went into bathrooms to try and record people doing their business. The sound featurette may be a bit much for some people - I had to turn it off. We also get a short piece about the White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame.
"Cast and Crew: Drive-Thru Bites" offers short interviews. "A Trip to the Land of Burgers" looks at the animated sequence in the movie. 9 deleted scenes are also included, along with a music video. On this Blu-Ray edition, we also get the trailers for this film, the trailer for the sequel ("Harold and Kumar: Escape From Guantanamo Bay") and a short promotional featurette for the sequel. The special features are in standard def, and a second disc offers a digital copy for those who want to download it to their PC.
Final Thoughts: "Harold and Kumar" is a moderately amusing stoner comedy that works better than I'd expected and offers a pair of very enjoyable lead performances. New Line's Blu-Ray edition provides very good audio/video quality and a ton of supplements. Recommended for fans, others interested should try a rental.
The Film B-