Favorite

Weed and Feed 

How did a non-pot-smoking vegetarian like Kal Penn end up in 'Harold and Kumar'?

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle has been labeled a "stoner comedy" by the press. Kal Penn finds that a little insulting.

Penn plays Kumar, the Indian-American, more daring half of the comic duo (Asian-American actor John Cho plays Harold, the more pensive and anal retentive of the two). The characters get high one Friday night and pledge to gorge on White Castle burgers (an East Coast thing) before the night is through, no matter what obstacles get in their way.

"I actually think this is an anti-stoner movie, because when Harold and Kumar are high, very bad things happen to them," says Penn.

Penn lived in New Jersey until he was 18, so he knows of the White Castle mythos. He's also a strict vegetarian who doesn't smoke weed. "It's not that I think there's anything wrong with it," he asserts. "I'm just a control freak."

So how did a vegetarian, pot-avoiding control freak end up in a movie that makes Cheech and Chong look like Jesus and John the Baptist?

"When I read the script, I didn't really register the marijuana or the burgers," he concedes. "I noticed the camaraderie of the two guys. They have a nice camaraderie, like the ones shared in The Goonies." He admits that he "never saw a Cheech and Chong movie" and doesn't feel that drugs are the driving force of the film. "The film doesn't glamorize marijuana, and it doesn't demonize it. It's just something these guys do, like drinking a beer."

As for the film's willingness to acknowledge and then demolish racial and character stereotypes, Penn enthuses: "Indian guys and Asian guys are usually the sidekicks with the funny accents and the karate stuff. Harold and Kumar are smart characters that defy the usual racial and character stereotypes. We're not the stoners who wake up at three in the afternoon, hit the bong and order a pizza. We are educated, Ivy League stoners, something that you never see. That was a cool part of it for both John and I."

Being a vegetarian, Penn couldn't truly partake in the film's final White Castle feast. "They took veggie burgers and cut them into little squares to fit into the White Castle buns" Penn reveals. "They were actually quite delicious. I ate, like, 50 of them in one day." Cho ate the real thing, but didn't experience any of the legendary intestinal distress caused by White Castle "Belly Bombers."

"John was OK after eating all those burgers ... maybe a little lethargic. In fact, I remember John saying a lot of stuff like, 'Mmmm ... these are really good.'"

As for why the critically praised film underperformed on its opening weekend, Penn is a bit puzzled. "It's struggling a bit. It sucks, because we've heard that the exit polls were some of the most positive ones that anyone's ever heard of. The Village opened big and had a lot of hype surrounding it."

When Penn is informed that The Village, the film that soundly kicked Harold and Kumar's ass last weekend, is positively dreadful, he sounds deflated.

"Oh, no ... I love Shyamalan."

More by Bob Grimm

  • Shark Weak

    Someone should have deep-sixed The Meg
    • Aug 16, 2018
  • Honor Roll

    Elsie Fisher and Josh Hamilton shine in Eighth Grade
    • Aug 9, 2018
  • Mission Accomplished

    Tom Cruise once again delivers a stunt-filled, pulse-pounding extravaganza like no other
    • Aug 2, 2018
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Girl Power

    It takes an Amazon to rescue DC Comic’s lackluster movie universe
    • Jun 8, 2017
  • Ghosts of Christmas

    Charles Dickens wrestles with the spirits of the season
    • Nov 30, 2017

The Range

18 Great Things to Do in Tucson This Weekend: August 17-19

Salsa, Tequila & Tacos Take Over Tucson

Four Great Things to Do in Tucson Today: Thursday, August 16

More »

Latest in Cinema Feature

  • Shark Weak

    Someone should have deep-sixed The Meg
    • Aug 16, 2018
  • Reel Indie

    Movies to see at local indie theaters this week.
    • Aug 16, 2018
  • More »

Facebook Activity

© 2018 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation