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Dude, where's your left hand?


Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
(R, 87 min.)
Wide release


Thunderbirds
(PG, 87 min.)
Wide release

Thursday, July 29, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle/Thunderbirds

Bored of the fries: Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle is strictly for stoners

Unless you're stoned silly, you can safely avoid Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, secure in the comforting knowledge that you're not missing the next big thing in screen comedy.

Potheads, giggling in the aisles, will doubtless greet this ditzy satire--chronicling the picaresque misadventures of two New Jersey stoners, who embark on a long night's journey into the heart of Garden State darkness, en route for the titular hamburger joint--as the greatest thing since Cheech met Chong.

But less synaptically impaired viewers will be unamused by the latest contribution to the pop culture stew from director Danny Leiner (who unleashed 2000's cultural touchstone, Dude, Where's My Car?), which falls midway between The Big Lebowski's inspired lunacy and Super Troopers' dispiriting witlessness.

John Cho (the American Pie trilogy) and Kal Penn (Van Wilder) are endearingly bumbling as the mismatched roommates, Harold Lee, a dweebish, Korean-American investment bank analyst with a hopeless crush on the girl next door (Paula Garcés), and Kumar Patel, the slacker son of an Indian immigrant, who's determined to avoid his manifest medical school destiny.

This undynamic duo's burger-obsessed odyssey includes the inevitable series of oddball encounters with hot Princeton coeds, a cute raccoon, an escaped cheetah, a sinister hillbilly and a foul-mouthed Neil Patrick Harris, gleefully subverting his "Doogie Howser, M.D." persona.

Eventually, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg's scenario tries redeeming itself with a rousing conclusion in which the put-upon underdogs turn the tables on racist co-workers, racist rednecks and racist cops. Their heartening moral? That in this multicultural paradise, the land of the fries and the home of the burger, anyone can surmount the obstacles of bigotry and inequality in the quest for that epicurean epitome of the American dream--the perfect burger binge. Yeah, dude, where's my ketchup?--Anthony Allison

Tweenworthy T-Birds

You and the young ones will likely barely remember you saw it in the morning, but Thunderbirds does what it's supposed to do: It gives kids some fun, junky Saturday morning TV-style entertainment.

William Osborne and Michael McCullers' screenplay--based on a 1960s British TV puppet show about a 2010 widowed billionaire who, with his sons, operates a worldwide rescue crew from an uncharted tropical island--allows director Jonathan Frakes to have some fun with gadgetry, family relationships and grade-school friendships.

It seems bad guy Hood (the evil-eyed Ben Kingsley) wants to destroy International Rescue founder Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton)--and rob the world's banks, besides. So he causes a crisis, luring them to the rescue. What Hood doesn't know is that one son, the wholesome, well-scrubbed Alan (Brady Corbet), nerd friend Fermat (Soren Fulton) and Alan's gal pal Tintin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens), have been left behind. It just so happens that Alan has always wanted to show Dad that he's good enough to join the Thunderbirds--and what better way than to rescue Dad himself?

Lending a hand is the preadolescent male charmer Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward (Sophia Myles), a high-toned, pink-obsessed, luxury-loving karate expert who always manages to leave her bubble bath in time to lend Mr. Tracy a hand, and Anthony Edwards, as Brains, Fermat's stuttering father, who commandeers the island laboratory.

The movie's scale is small; nothing about it is original or unusually competent. You can see Kingsley straining to act, but the script doesn't give him much to do.

The characters, though, are at times engaging. Corbet (Thirteen) seems destined for tween cult status. And the script exploits what's probably the ultimate male child fantasy: proving to Daddy that son is worthy of hero-size respect.--Anthony Del Valle


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