Harold & Kumar go to White Castle came out of nowhere and exceeded most people’s expectations four years ago. While a good portion of the country didn’t even know what White Castle was (as a native Ohioan, I’m more than familiar with the infamous “sliders”), the film nevertheless grew a cult following with its pot humor and cunning take on race relations. While Guantanamo Bay isn’t as consistently funny as its predecessor, it does capitalize on the fact that the world is even more screwed up now than it was four years ago.
Guantanamo Bay picks up right where White Castle left off. Harold (Cho) and Kumar (Penn) have finished their gargantuan portions of “sliders” and are preparing to jet off to Amsterdam so that Harold can track down his true love, Maria (Paula Garcés). The two get through airport security just fine, but things get dicey when Kumar busts out his own creation, the “smokeless bong,” mid-flight. Hijinks ensue and the passengers on the plane think Kumar is about to blow it up. The two are tackled by Federal marshals and taken to Guantanamo Bay. It doesn’t take long for them to escape, however, and they soon find themselves on the run.
The film takes a more liberal approach to its humor this time around. A lot is thrown at the wall and not as much sticks when compared to the original, which has several well-choreographed and timed set pieces. Writers/Directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg tone down the pot humor in favor of gross-out gags and riskier racial jokes. While there are plenty of opportunities to make the audience feel uncomfortable, Hurwitz and Schlossberg keep the tone just light enough. Case in point: a scene where Harold and Kumar find themselves at a KKK meeting in the Arkansas backwoods.
John Cho and Kal Penn seem like a natural-born team. They play off each other effortlessly and mostly work the same magic as was found in the original. The supporting cast is stronger this time around. Rob Corddry takes the role of Ron Fox, the ultra-serious Fed who wants Harold and Kumar back at Guantanamo Bay no matter their guilt or innocence, and hits it out of the park. When he wipes his butt with the Bill of Rights, you almost get the feeling that it wasn’t based on fiction. Neil Patrick Harris turns up in a reprise of his role as…Neil Patrick Harris. Much like the first time around, he steals every scene he’s in.
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay isn’t as focused as its predecessor, but it does provide the kind of laughs one has come to expect from this team. It’s ridiculous, gross, and joyously over-the-top while playing off society’s prejudices. And it does provide one crucial assertion: George W. Bush only makes sense when he’s high. That may be the most factual thing we get out of the movies all year long.
Studio: New Line Cinema
Length: 102 Minutes
Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language and drug use.
Theatrical Release: April 25, 2008
Directed by: Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg.
Written by: Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg.
Cast: John Cho, Kal Penn, Rob Corddry, Jack Conley, Roger Bart, Neil Patrick Harris