More recently, comic casting has been colour blind — think of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones battling illegal aliens of the extraterrestrial kind in Men in Black and its sequel. But the first Harold & Kumar movie in 2004 went a step further, taking second-tier movie minorities, usually cast for their martial arts prowess and bad-guy cred, and making them the stars. Screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg even gave them the Everyman monikers Lee and Patel, more common than the surnames of Men in Black’s lead actors. (The Toronto white pages alone lists some 6,000 Lees and Patels.)
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle featured racial comedy, but never at the expense of its stars. The most blatant example is the bookish guy in the county lockup, arrested and roughed up for being black. Kumar (Kal Penn) gets to shout one pitch-perfect convenience-store “thank you come again!” and Harold (John Cho) frets about being invited to his Chinese friend’s all-Chinese get-togethers, but that’s about it.
In the sequel that opens Friday, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, the budget is bigger, the expectations greater and the stakes higher. As such, Hurwitz and Schlossberg have felt the need to widen their racial net. Again, however, Lee and Patel escape the brunt of the profiling, except for the unfortunate opening that finds them accused of being operatives of Al Qaeda and North Korea in cahoots.
[H/t: Linta Varghese]