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Munchies run 

I'm not stoned: There's actually some serious racial-political subtext rolled up in the half-baked comedy Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.

Director Danny Leiner previously gave the world Dude, Where's My Car?, which indicates the new film's level of sophistication. Two mismatched roommates -- uptight Korean-American Harold Lee (John Cho) and insolent, profane Indian-American Kumar Patel (Hal Penn) -- smoke pot one fateful Friday night and get the munchies for White Castle hamburgers.

The pair's quest for sliders sends them on a disastrous, all-night journey across the turnpikes and dirt tracks of New Jersey. Somewhere in the middle, White Castles' buzz wears off and the jokes turn from gross and hilarious to gross and tedious. But the film playfully includes some surreal non-sequiturs. In one highlight, Kumar sets his eyes on a big, enticing bag of weed, and then imagines a romantic movie montage of himself and the bag of weed playing in a park, having sex in bed, getting married, etc.

What separates White Castle from other comedies meant to make potheads giggle (which is not Hollywood's most difficult task) is its thoughts about being a minority in America. 'Rold and Kumar face racial-profiling by state troopers, taunting from "extreme" athletes and encounters with stereotypes of their own ethnicity. For instance, Harold meets wholesome Asian nerds and worries about becoming a "Twinkie" -- yellow on the outside, white on the inside. And Kumar resists family pressures to assimilate and become a doctor, but rises to the defense of a Hindu convenience store manager.

At the climax, Kumar makes the case that White Castle, despite being a guilty-pleasure, greasy fast-food chain, symbolizes the American dream pursued by their immigrant parents. Stupid the argument may be, but it contains a sesame seed of truth.

Marijuana comedies represent the American way as well, enlisting stoned heroes from all backgrounds without prejudice. Harold and Kumar join the multicultural ranks of Cheech, Chong, Jay, Silent Bob, Snoop Dogg and more.

It's not called the melting "pot" for nothing.

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10/30/2014

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