Harold & Kumar & Barack
By RICHARD ROEPER September 4, 2012 2:32PM
Updated: October 6, 2012 1:48PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s not as ridiculous as Clint Eastwood telling an empty chair to shut up, but how in the world did Team Obama think it was a good idea to have the president of the United States doing telephone shtick with Harold & Kumar?
I mean, has Mr. Obama seen what those guys do in those movies? The pot smoking is the least of it.
In the video, the somber-faced president dials a number. Perhaps he’s calling a foreign leader? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?
“Hey, this is Barack,” says the president. “Listen, I need to know if you’re on board.”
Cue the music that sounds like it’s from “Deep Impact” or “Armageddon.”
“I’m counting on you,” says Obama. “Everybody is. Just remember that I’m trusting you on this …”
We cut to John Cho’s Harold and Kal Penn’s Kumar, in character, sitting on a sofa, watching TV. Tons of junk food in front of them, but no bong, so I guess we’re supposed to pretend these guys aren’t high.
Harold asks who was on the phone, and Kumar tells him it was the president. “Sweet,” says Harold, as if that happens every day. The two lovable morons laugh at the screen as we learn this is a promotion for the live stream of DNC events, which will be hosted by Penn, an associate director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement.
Like the president slow-jamming with Jimmy Fallon, we get it — he’s the cool president, the hipster president, the president who knows what’s going on in pop culture, unlike the Nixons and Bushes and Romneys of the political world. (If the iPod had existed in 1968, imagine the Nixon playlist: “Well, I have some Lawrence Welk, and Perry Como, and I promised Elvis I’d give a listen to some of his rock and roll music …”)
But really, the president has to sink to this? Calling himself “Barack” and acting as the straight man for the most famous reefer duo since Cheech & Chong?
The Dems don’t seem to understand they’re the clear leaders in the Pop Culture Wars. Whether it’s Rage Against the Machine raging against Paul Ryan, Hank Williams Jr. ranting about our “Muslim president” or the iconic Eastwood’s embarrassing display last week, GOP-related entertainment episodes have ranged from the embarrassing to the really embarrassing.
You don’t need to have Chris Rock show up at the convention to say, “My grandmother’s been talking to an empty chair since 1997 and nobody’s giving her a standing ovation!” (Not that anyone but me has floated that idea.) In this arena, all the Democrats have to do is run out the clock. That social media movement to have Betty White appear at the DNC as a response to Mr. Eastwood? Another bad idea!
When your opponent lays an egg, you don’t counter it. You just let it stand on its own.