Saturday, July 24, 2004

The New York Times on Harold and Kumar...

I haven't seen Harold and Kumar yet but I thought I would post a link and some excerpts from the NY Times review of the film.

"The movie's apparently simple shifts of racial and generational emphasis — replacing the traditional white (or, in recent variants, black) teenagers or undergraduates with Asian-Americans in their post-college years — at once upend the conventions of youth-oriented goofball comedy and revitalize them. "Harold and Kumar" is as delightfully stupid as "Friday" or "Road Trip" or "Wet Hot American Summer," but it is also one of the few recent comedies that persuasively, and intelligently, engage the social realities of contemporary multicultural America.

In some ways John Cho and Kal Penn are broadening a venerable tradition of ethnic humor, trafficking in stereotypes and sending them up with equal verve. The stoners down the hall, for instance, are a pair of fast-talking former yeshiva boys who fire up a shofar for some Sabbath eve toking. On a pit stop in Princeton, Harold is dragooned into attending a meeting of an Asian-American student group, whose painfully earnest members pepper him with geeky questions about his investment banking job. Harold, confronted with the specter of his own squareness and conformity, manages to flee, only to miss out on the group's subsequent activity — a raucous, uninhibited party, with drugs courtesy of the geekiest kid in the bunch. (The spectacle of good students behaving badly presents a tamer version of the studious Asian-American teenagers gone wild in "Better Luck Tomorrow," Justin Lin's 2001 drama of honor-roll hoodlums, which featured Mr. Cho and which is name-checked in "Harold and Kumar.") The filmmakers are happy to laugh at Harold's buttoned-up careerism and cautious deference to authority, and also at the fact that Kumar's immigrant family, obsessed with the need for him to get high marks and make good impressions, seems to be composed entirely of physicians. But they also lash out — in remarkably good humor, it must be said — at the lazy, bigoted perceptions that bedevil Harold and Kumar in the course of their all-night odyssey.

The prejudice that Harold and Kumar encounter — expressed by a carload of extreme-sports headbangers and by doltish New Jersey law enforcement officers, among others — is more a matter of inconvenience, of moronic uncoolness, than oppression. And in fighting back against it, Harold and Kumar are motivated less by a sense of wounded pride or profound injustice than by a familiar individualist exasperation. They just want hamburgers (and sex, and decent weed and a good time) — which is to say they want what is theirs by birthright as young, affluent, reasonably good-looking American consumers. Though they are occasionally abused and insulted, they also carry with them assumptions of social privilege, intellectual capital and economic opportunity. They share a decent apartment in Hoboken. Harold has a spiffy silver Honda (at least until Doogie Howser gets a hold of it) paid for by his white collar, Wall Street job, while Kumar dawdles on the way to medical school, supported by his father while he indulges in a bit of late-adolescent rebellion."

For some reason, that sounds vaguely familiar. Anyway, go check out the film and support Asian-American cinema.


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