A Very American Harold & Kumar

In honor of the release today of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, I revisit my thoughts from 2008 on the film series’ view of freedom in America:

The movie Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle was celebrated mostly as a “stoner” movie: smart young Asian guys smoke pot and get the munchies. When I finally got around to watching it, it was funnier than I expected. And very near the end of the movie, after an all-night road trip in which they encountered more obstacles than Odysseus, when Harold finally gives up and says he can’t make the last leg of the epic journey to White Castle, came this wonderful speech from Kumar:

So, you think this is just about the burgers, huh? Let me tell you, it’s about far more than that. Our parents came to this country, escaping persecution, poverty and hunger. Hunger, Harold. They were very, very hungry. They wanted to live in a land that treated them as equals, a land filled with hamburger stands. And not just one type of hamburger, okay? Hundreds of types with different sizes, toppings, and condiments. That land was America! America, Harold! America! Now this is about achieving what our parents set out for. This is about the pursuit of happiness. This night … is about the American Dream! Dude, we can stay here, get arrested, and end our hopes of ever going to White Castle. Or, we can take that hang glider and make our leap towards freedom. I leave the decision up to you.

Escaping persecution, poverty, and hunger … to find ample food and unlimited choices … the pursuit of happiness … the American Dream. Yes, I think writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg were on to something.

And then in the sequel, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, after another improbable road trip, the fugitive youths literally dropped in on George W. Bush’s Texas ranch. In the increasingly fantastic plot, the president invited them to join him in hiding from the scary Cheney, shared his pot with them, and then promised to clear up the unfortunate misunderstanding that landed them in Guantanamo Bay. An uninhibited but still skeptical Kumar said, “I’m not sure I trust our government any more, sir.” And President Bush delivered this ringing libertarian declaration:

Hey, I’m in the government, and I don’t even trust it. You don’t have to trust your government to be a patriot. You just have to trust your country.

Harold & Kumar: more wisdom than a month of right-wing talk radio. Hurwitz and Schlossberg get what America is about.