The outlandish premise and greasy title may be a little hard to swallow, but Danny Leiner's proudly moronic film embraces its boneheadedness so cheerfully that its lowbrow charms are nearly irresistible. Lowly, hard-working investment-firm drone Harold Lee (AMERICAN PIE scene-stealer John Cho) is forever picking up the slack for advantage-taking colleagues...read more
The outlandish premise and greasy title may be a little hard to swallow, but Danny Leiner's proudly moronic film embraces its boneheadedness so cheerfully that its lowbrow charms are nearly irresistible.
Lowly, hard-working investment-firm drone Harold Lee (AMERICAN PIE scene-stealer John Cho) is forever picking up the slack for advantage-taking colleagues who regularly dump their work on him so they can go carousing. At the end of a long, tedious week, he returns to his Hoboken, New Jersey, apartment to find sloppy roommate Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) — who spends his days concocting new ways to avoid medical school without interrupting the cash flow from his father — messing up his impeccably neat room. In an effort to unwind, this thoroughly contemporary Asian-American odd couple relax by smoking pot and watching TV, which brings on the inevitable major case of the munchies. An ad for White Castle inspires them to strike out for the fast-food Mecca. They hit the road under the influence of the chain's slogan, "What you crave," but many obstacles stand between them and their destination. They include a raucous group of extreme-sports jocks; some sexy but gastrointestinally troubled coeds; an escaped cheetah; horny hitchhiking actor Neil Patrick Harris, of Doogie Howser, M.D. fame; a repulsive backwoods mechanic; bigoted policemen; a trip to the hospital; multiple embarrassing encounters with Harold's crush, a sexy Latina neighbor (Paula Graces) who dominates his fantasies as "Maria Quesa Dilla"; and, worst of all, their frustrating inability to actually find a White Castle.
Aside from the grosser-than-gross gags (including a competition whose name is a bathroom variation on "battleship"), which seem to be all-but mandatory in contemporary mainstream comedies, this bizarre romp alternates between wickedly funny and surprisingly poignant. While Kumar and Harold's revelations are concentrated at the lite end of the philosophical spectrum — and surely no one expects intellectual heavy-lifting from DUDE WHERE'S MY CAR director Leiner — the film's ability to engage and poke fun at racial stereotypes without pandering to them is a major strength. It's still a dumb stoner comedy, but it negotiates the thin line between stupid and clever with sly alacrity. Strong performances by Cho and Penn, a slew of brief but witty supporting appearances and an unlikely use of Wilson Phillips' "Hold On" round out the appetizing package.
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