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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle (Extreme Unrated)

Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 3 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted July 26 2008 - 01:17 PM

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Release Date: July 29, 2008
Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case
Year: 2004
Rating: UR
Running Time: 1h28m
Video: 1080p high definition 1.85:1 / special features 1080p, 1080i high definition, 480p standard definition
Audio: 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio: English / special features in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 stereo DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish / select special features in English SDH and Spanish
MSRP: $28.99

The Feature: 4/5
After a Friday night toke session Harold and Kumar (John Cho and Kal Penn) get a massive craving for White Castle burgers. When they encounter one gross, awkward and surreal situation after another, their simple food run turns into an odyssey of epic proportions. Since whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, by the time Harold and Kumar's night is over, they should be able to face anything.

Praised by some for its non-stereotypical depiction of Asian Americans, the main characters' ethnicities in "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" is ultimately incidental, influencing some of the humor but not being its focal point. That's what makes the movie remarkable - it's not seeing Asian Americans undercut stereotypes by smoking pot, acting horny and dropping f-bombs. It's seeing race and culture acknowledged but not ACKNOWLEDGED, to have two characters whose ethnicity makes them who they are but not all of who they are. That's an unexpected quality in a film that stands toe-to-toe in crassness with films like "American Pie" and "The Wedding Crashers," but it's certainly not its raison-d'etre. That would be making us laugh, grossing us out, and causing West Coasters to wonder, "What does a fresh White Castle Slider taste like?" Fortunately the answer is only a plane ticket away, post-reefer munchies not required or included.

It's not clear what makes the cut of this release "extreme unrated" - the run time doesn't seem to be any different from the theatrical cut. Based on some of the special feature clips, I suspect two versions were shot of some scenes and the racier of the two used in this cut of the film.


Video Quality: 3.5/5
Accurately framed at 1.85:1 the picture is mostly free of physical defects - viewers may spot an occasional white speck but little else. Black levels are deep and inky, though the lower end of the contrast range looks slightly crushed. Overall detail is good with no signs of grain reduction, though the image lacks the jaw dropping clarity found in better transfers. Flesh tones can shift a bit between shots, but I saw no other issues with color reproduction.


Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Having 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio as its sole audio option certainly is impressive, but the material certainly doesn't demand it. Surrounds mostly provide soundtrack support for a mix that is by-and-large a front stage affair. The entire array perks up in a handful of spots, adding directional effects and LFE to some of the hilarity, but it's mostly about the dialogue, which is consistently clear and intelligible.


Special Features: 4/5

The special features package includes all of the items from the last unrated DVD edition (some of them now in high definition) and adds the sequel sneak peeks and trailers.

Audio Commentary with Director Danny Leiner and Actors John Cho and Kal Penn: The trio do a lot of joking around, but there are some nice anecdotes throughout, even if they do tend to be rather complimentary of everyone involved.

Audio Commentary with Writers John Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and the real Harold Lee: Hurwitz and Schlossberg give a more focused (though not entirely serious) commentary providing production history, script analysis and story background. Lee chimes in once in awhile but the writers dominate.

"Extreme" Commentary with Danny Bochart: The guy who played "Extreme Punk #1" gets annoying fast. You've been warned.

John Cho and Kal Penn: The Back Seat Interview (12m58s): Comedian Bobby Lee drives Cho and Penn around asks them various questions, some serious, some not so.

The Art of the Fart (10m38s): Sound Designer Jeff Kushner discusses (and shows) the challenges of recording flatulence and diarrhea sound effects. Be sure not to watch this featurette over lunch.

A Trip to the Land of Burgers (10m44s): A look at creating Harold's animated fantasy sequence.

White Castle Craver's Hall of Fame (3m08s): Cho and Penn get inducted into the burger joint's hall of fame in Ohio.

"Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" Sneak Peek (15m06s): Extended promotional piece for the sequel.

"Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" Red Band Trailer (3m17s)

Cast and Crew Clips (20m04s): Eight brief interviews with everyone from the director to Neil Patrick Harris.

Deleted and Alternate Scenes (14m22s): Includes eight scenes, some that were left out entirely, others that were slightly longer in their first incarnation. The segment also includes a blooper reel. All are in high definition.

Theatrical Trailer (2m22s)

Red Band Theatrical Trailer (2m21s)

Music Video (4m04s): "Yeah (Dream of Me)" by the band All Too Much.

Digital Copy: Video file for downloading to your computer or portable video device is available on a second DVD. Unfortunately, it is only compatible with Windows computers. I have a Mac so am unable to comment on the quality or the method of access.


Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5

Atypical stoner/buddy comedy gets decent high definition audio and video treatment and a special features package that omits nothing from the DVD edition. For those who don't own the film already the choice is obvious, while DVD owners may have a hard time justifying a double dip. The Windows-only digital copy is a disappointment, but not a deal breaker.
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#2 of 3 OFFLINE   Dave H

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Posted July 26 2008 - 01:34 PM

Nice review. I was just getting ready to ask if anyone's taken a look at this BD yet.

#3 of 3 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted July 27 2008 - 07:07 AM

Forgot to add comments about the digital copy on a second disc (though it's sort of moot since it's only Windows compatible and I'm on a Mac).
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