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The unlikely stoner comedy loved by Roger Ebert


American film critic Roger Ebert wasn’t exactly the most lenient of movie critics, often going toe to toe with his partner and fellow film lover Gene Siskel as they took apart the biggest and best cinematic releases. 

Favouring the films of Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini and Martin Scorsese, Ebert had fine tastes, regularly coming down on subpar comedies such as the 2005 movie The Dukes of Hazzard and 2001s Joe Dirt as he developed a reputation for being one of the harshest, yet fair, movie critics in the industry. 

So when the release of the stoner comedy Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle came around in 2004, director Danny Leiner feared the worst, with the puerile comedy of the throwaway movie surely not the fine tastes of Ebert? Strangely, however, the film, starring John Cho and Kal Penn struck a chord with the critic, citing it as a fresh and original take on the stoner comedy genre. 

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In his review from July 30th, 2004 Roger Ebert described the movie as “meaty summer comedy,” praising Leiner’s film for its refreshing take on the contemporary genre. 

“The summer has been filled with comedies that failed because they provided formula characters, mostly nice teenagers who wanted to be loved and popular,” his review reads, criticising the poor landscape of comedy in the early 2000s. Switching his attention to the new film, however, he adds, “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, on the other hand, is about two very specific roommates who want to smoke pot, meet chicks and eat sliders in the middle of the night”. 

Giving the movie three stars out of four stars, the critic went on to describe how he came out of the movie theatre and asked his friend if it was worth checking out Danny Leiner’s previous film Dude, Where’s My Car? after he’d “laughed often enough” during Harold & Kumar. Advised against seeking out the 2000 comedy starring Seann William Scott and Ashton Kutcher, Ebert remained a great fan of Harold & Kumar long after its release.

A staple of teenage sleepovers throughout the 2000s, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle found a surprising amount of critical and commercial love when it was released in 2004, praised for its many progressive steps forward. Subverting racial stereotypes through the representation of its two male leads, played by John Cho and Kal Penn, the first Harold & Kumar strikes the perfect balance of puerile comedy, creating a film that stands the test of time to this very day.

Check out the trailer for the film below, with the first film sparking the release of two sequels in Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay and A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, released in 2008 and 2011.