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Danny Leiner
John Cho, Kal Penn, Ethan Embry, Robert Tinkler, Fred Willard, Steve Braun, Dan Bochart, Paula Garcés
Writing Credits:
Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg

Fast Food. High Times.

Straitlaced Harold (John Cho) and his rebellious roommate Kumar (Kal Penn) have only one thing in common -- a serious case of the munchies. As they set out on a quest to satisfy their craving for White Castle hamburgers, their simple road trip turns into a hilarious, all-night journey of deep thoughts, deeper inhaling and a wild trip through New Jersey. Along the way, Harold and Kumar meet an array of crazy characters and one screwy obstacle after another, but with every step of the journey, they somehow manage to keep their eye on the tasty prize, learning more than they bargained for about themselves and each other in the process.

Box Office:
$9 million.
Opening Weekend
$5.480 million on 2135 screens.
Domestic Gross
$18.225 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $27.95
Release Date: 1/4/2005

Disc One
• Audio Commentary With Director Danny Leiner and Actors John Cho and Kal Penn
• Audio Commentary with Writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg plus Harold Lee
• “Extreme” Commentary with Extreme Sports Punk #1 Danny Bochart
• “John Cho and Kal Penn: The Backseat Interview”
• “The Art of the Fart” Featurette
• “Cast and Crew: Drive-Thru Bites” Interviews
• “A Trip to the Land of Burgers” Featurette
• Deleted/Alternate Scenes
• Trailers
• Music Video
• DVD-ROM Features


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle: Unrated Extended Edition (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 30, 2004)

With 2004’s Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, we get a teen comedy with a twist. Instead of the usual white-bread leads, Castle uses actors of more unusual ethnicity as its main characters. That makes it slightly distinctive, but otherwise there’s not much to distinguish Castle from its brethren.

Investment banker Harold Lee (John Cho) gets dumped on at work, as his superiors drop extra tasks on his lap so they can party over the weekend. This creates problems for Harold’s own plans, as he and roommate Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) plan to spend the weekend stoned. Kumar lives off support from his father. He participates in occasional med school interviews but doesn’t want to become a doctor; he only goes through the motions to stay on his dad’s gravy train.

We see a few other aspects of the guys’ lives. Harold has a thing for neighbor Maria (Paula Garces) but he’s too wimpy to do much about it. Instead, he and Kumar sit at home and get stoned. When they get the munchies, they decide to head to White Castle. A seemingly simple task, things degenerate into a long series of misadventures that takes them all over New Jersey and into many predicaments.

Castle’s most unusual element occasionally threatens to turn into a gimmick. Is there any particularly strong reason to make the protagonists Korean and Indian, respectively? No, but on the other hand, there’s no reason not to feature lead actors who aren’t white. Indeed, this gives the movie a slightly distinctive flavor and is a step in the right direction.

However, I’d feel happier with the unusual casting if the movie didn’t pat itself on the back so often. It’s similar to a white guy with a black friend who makes sure to remind you of that fact over and over again. The film wants so badly to make a progressive statement that it occasionally feels a bit artificial, like it’s trying too hard to convince us of its forward-thinking tone.

The content of the movie sporadically reflects the ethnicity of its actors, and in a somewhat grating manner. Those are the parts that threaten to negate its progressive slant. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to have a movie with non-white actors in which no one ever mentions that fact? I don’t mean that the flick should deny the existence of racism and stereotypes, and it’d be fine if Castle integrated some cultural elements into the story. It’s just the way it occasionally beats us on the head with anti-racist components that get old. I’d like the movie more if it treated Harold and Kumar just like anybody else and didn’t spend so much time reminding us that they’re different.

Don’t take this as a sign that the ethnic concepts fill most of Castle, because they don’t. Instead, the movie usually works like most other flicks in its genre, for better or for worse. Director Danny Leiner previously did Dude, Where’s My Car?, so that should give you an idea what to expect: lots of low-brow humor and over the top gags. Like Dude, Castle offers sporadic laughs but it never threatens to become anything great.

Perhaps the most inspired part of the movie comes from Neil Patrick Harris’s extended cameo. He shows a remarkable capacity to make himself look bad. He abuses drugs, steals a car, and generally acts like a wacko. It’s quite funny and becomes the best part of the flick.

Otherwise, the comedy in Castle is very hit or miss. It shows just enough intelligence to make things interesting, but then it indulges in nasty gross-out gags that make you feel dirty for laughing at the other parts. Outside of its casting, Castle does nothing to re-invent the teen comedy, and it only occasionally musters a laugh. Still, I’ve seen worse, and this is a fairly painless and intermittently amusing flick.

Note that this DVD includes the “Extreme Unrated” version of Castle. How does it differ from the standard “R”-rated theatrical cut? I have no idea. Nothing on the DVD tells us, and both appear to run 88 minutes. (The DVD’s case claims the unrated edition lasts 90 minutes, but that’s not accurate.) I didn’t see the movie before this disc arrived, so I can’t compare the two.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus A-

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The flick presented a good but unexceptional picture.

Sharpness usually looked fine. Some softness interfered, mostly during wider shots. Nonetheless, the majority of the movie was appropriately concise and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I saw some mild edge enhancement at times. No significant print concerns appeared. The movie looked a bit grainy at times, but otherwise the movie lacked any noticeable defects.

Colors worked well. A couple of shots were slightly flat, but usually the movie showed well-developed tones. The hues were tight and lively most of the time. Blacks seemed deep and firm, while low-light shots demonstrated good clarity and definition. The image never became exceptional, but it usually appeared good.

Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. As with most comedies, the soundfield emphasized the front channels. The music displayed good imaging, and effects broadened to the sides well. They presented a nice sense of atmosphere and kicked into action nicely when appropriate.

Surround usage rarely took center stage, but they added to the presentation at times. The influential White Castle commercial at the movie’s start spread vividly to the rears, and a few other shots like a thunderstorm and the arrival of Freak Show’s truck added life to the back channels. The surrounds lacked great involvement, but they worked fine for this sort of flick.

Audio quality was quite good. Speech came across as natural and crisp, with no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility. Effects were clear and accurate. They showed good range and clarity as well. Music worked very nicely, especially in regard to the mix of source songs. Those presented strong definition and liveliness, and the whole package showed tight, rich bass. Again, there wasn’t anything special about the soundtrack, but it seemed more than acceptable for the material.

To launch its supplements, Castle comes with a whopping three audio commentaries. The first one presents director Danny Leiner and actors Kal Penn and John Cho, all of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. Don’t expect a lot of hard data in this very anecdotal commentary. The participants go over various story elements at times and let us know what it was like to work together and with the other folks, but mainly they joke around and yak about their general experiences.

A lot of praise pops up along the way, and sometimes we just hear the names of various participants. Nonetheless, the track maintains a nicely amiable energy. It moves briskly and manages to entertain, even if it doesn’t do much to inform.

For the next commentary, we hear from writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg plus Harold Lee, the real-life inspiration for the movie’s title character. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. This commentary’s just as amiable and fun as the prior one, and it also includes quite a lot of good information. We learn a lot about the aspects of the writers’ lives that influenced the story, coming up with the tale and gags, and changes from script to screen. We also hear about influences along with quite a few good anecdotes. It’s an irreverent and educational chat that works quite well.

Finally, we get an “Extreme Commentary” with Extreme Sports Punk #1 Danny Bochart. He presents a running, screen-specific discussion that sporadically gives us information about the making of the movie. Bochart talks a little about his casting and also tosses out the occasional anecdote from the set. However, mostly he sits with us as an observer who offers his thoughts on the material. It’s very much connected to his interpretation of the gags and his real-life take on things. Bochart’s a pretty gregarious guy, which some might interpret as obnoxiousness. At times, that’s how I saw things, but Bochart manages to be moderately entertaining. Though it’s a pretty pointless commentary, Bochart makes it reasonably fun.

One disappointing aspect of the commentaries: no one ever discusses changes between the theatrical version and the unrated one. I presume the participants watched the latter as they chatted, but we get no information about changes made for the unrated edition.

For the next component, we get John Cho and Kal Penn: The Backseat Interview. This 12-minute and 58-second piece shows the guys as actor Bobby Lee drives them around LA and asks questions. A few tidbits of information emerge, but mostly it’s played for laughs, with lots of gay jokes and not much else.

Called The Art of the Fart, the next featurette runs 10 minutes and 38 seconds. In it, we hear from Leiner and sound designer Jeff Kushner as they discuss the recording of the movie’s diarrhea sequence. Possibly the most disgusting featurette I’ve seen, this one takes a very tongue in cheek attitude as we see Kushner’s alleged methods. Like the “Backseat Interview”, it’s moderately amusing and that’s it.

A mix of short interview clips appear in an area called Cast and Crew: Drive-Thru Bites. We get eight of these, and they run between one minute, 42 seconds and four minutes, 17 seconds for a total of 20 minutes of footage. We get comments from Leiner, Hurvitz, Schlossberg, actors Fred Willard, Neil Patrick Harris, Brooke D’Orsay, Kate Kelton, Steve Braun, Eddie Kaye Thomas, David Krumholtz, and Paula Garces. The emphasis stays on general notes, without a lot of insight. We get some decent remarks about casting from a few of the performers, but fluff dominates these mostly insubstantial interviews.

For the next featurette, we findA Trip to the Land of Burgers. In this 10-minute and 43-second piece, we look at one of the movie’s surreal sequences. It presents remarks from Leiner, editor Jeff Betancourt, and graphic designer Chevon Hicks. They discuss the concept of the segment, problems with it, and its ultimate execution. A relief after the various fluffy bits that came before it, “Trip” is very informative and interesting as it covers the complicated sequence.

After this we get eight Deleted/Alternate Scenes. All together, these fill 11 minutes and 51 seconds. Most of these add minor extensions to existing bits, and a lot of them concern Freakshow. The most significant added piece alters the ending to add Luis Guzman. None of them are terribly interesting.

We can watch the scenes with or without commentary from Leiner, Cho and Penn. They tell us a little about the scenes and sometimes relate why the sequences got the boot, though not often enough. That’s the most important element of this sort of commentary, so the absence of that content makes the track less useful.

At the end of the deleted/alternate scenes area, we get a collection of Outtakes. This 74-second compilation really offers very small trims and unused takes of bits. It’s not the standard giggles and goofs package, which makes it more interesting than usual.

One music video pops up here. We get “Yeah (Dream of Me)” by All Too Much. Mostly it shows the standard movie clips, but it also attempts an actual story in which some stud hits on a babe. It’s not much, but it’s a little better than the average video from a film.

In addition to the trailer for Castle, we get some ads under the More from New Line banner. This area includes promos for Blade Trinity, Festival Express, The Butterfly Effect, and Run Ronnie Run.

Folks with DVD-ROM drives can access a few additional pieces. The main attraction comes from the script-to-screen feature. Available on many New Line releases, this one runs the movie along with the final screenplay. In a fun twist, it also presents storyboards when available.

”Me and Weedy” lets you pretend to be pals with the movie’s giant bag of pot. It allows you to import pictures of yourself or others and puts you in various spots with Weedy. It’s not very interesting but at least it’s something different. An unusual element comes with the “Rescue Maria” game. This “Mario”-style contest is surprisingly fun and challenging. Finally, the disc offers links to the websites for Harold and Kumar and New Line.

I don’t normally comment on DVD menus, but the ones for Castle deserve mention. If you let them run without any interference, Penn and Cho offer various comments about your inaction. That’s not a new concept, as some other DVDs feature similar menus, but these are unusually fun. In another nice touch, most of the DVD’s extras include both English and

I can’t say the same for Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Beyond the unusual ethnicity of its leads, this is pretty standard teen comedy fare. It spurts out some laughs but also drags a lot of the time and never becomes much better than average. The DVD presents good but unexceptional picture and sound along with a pretty solid set of extras highlighted by three separate audio commentaries. Castle doesn’t stand out from the crowd strongly enough to merit a firm recommendation, but fans of the genre will likely enjoy it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0476 Stars Number of Votes: 42
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