Ok, it’s not Bollywood, nor indie, but it does have a lead desi actor – Kal Penn – who we’re seeing more and more of, and with a big release – The Namesake – just around the corner.
I thought this was going to be a total frat boy, asinine joke fest (think American Pie), but, bathroom humor included, there were some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and the film, part caper, part road movie, part buddy film, has a crisp, well produced look to it.
Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn, or Kalpen Modi) are Cheech and Chong for the 21st century, though younger and not quite as crusty looking. Both boys love to sit in their Hoboken (of course, Ground Zero for hard partying frat boys) bachelor pad and light up a blunt.
Harold, Korean-American number cruncher working at an investment bank, is the more tightly wound of the duo. Kumar, pressured by his father (a doctor) to go to med school and follow in his footsteps, is more laid back and unflappable in most scrapes he manages to get into. One Friday night, Harold comes home, bummed out over work his colleagues have dumped on him for the weekend, and his own fear of talking to the pretty Maria who lives in their building, sits down with Kumar and gets stoned. The two see an ad for White Castle on TV and, now overcome by munchies, set off on a mission to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, home of a 24-hour branch.
Along the way, many stereotypes are trotted out, toyed with, and blown up. On a stop at Princeton University, Harold bemoans the fact that a Korean girl pursuing him keeps trying to drag him to her priggish Asian-American club. Cornered by her and them, he’s forced to do some Q & A with a bunch of (surprise) ambitious kids who are even more buttoned up than he is.
Later, the pair meet Neil Patrick Harris as a very horny, older Doogie Howser, and Law and Order’s Christopher Meloni in an amazing make-up job that renders him abhorrent, as a gun-toting, truck-driving Jesus freak with a smoking hot wife.
The movie trots along briskly from one mix-up on to the next mishap, encountering several buffoonish racist cops along the way who, naturally, get their comeuppance.
Having just seen Kal Penn in The Namesake, I have to remark that he seemed more natural as the rubber-faced stoner Kumar than as Gogol. John Cho is handsome and compact, and, as the “making of” segment reveals, way more of a wild man than his character Harold would lead us to believe.
See it or skip it?
See it. It’s a fun 90 or so minutes, if you don’t mind some crude potty humor in between tokes and jokes.