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Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Perhaps the most surprising movie to be labeled “post-9/11,” Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay combines typical stoner-movie humor with a plot about ethnic profiling, the torture of prisoners, and general War on Terror paranoia. But, like, in a funny way.
A perfect example of the way the movie combines these seemingly conflicting themes comes when Rob Corddry (The Daily Show), playing a buffoonish Homeland Security official as the embodiment of every liberal’s worst fear, literally wipes his butt with the Bill of Rights in front of the duo. “Dude, why’s your ass so dirty?” Kumar asks.
The movie kicks off mere seconds after the first movie, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, ends. Harold and Kumar head to Amsterdam to chase after the love of Harold’s life, but on the plane, Kumar lights up with a bong in the bathroom; someone thinks he says “bomb,” and suddenly they’re being detained by the government. Corddry is called in, sees the Korean Harold and Indian Kumar, and can’t believe his luck: “North Korea and Al Qaeda working together! This is bigger than I thought.”
The casual racism against the two leads was something that made White Castle a cut more perceptive than other comedies of its ilk, but applying it to the U.S. government makes Escape from Guantanamo Bay – an equally brilliant title, by the way "” surprisingly ballsy. Subtlety is obviously not what they were going for here.
So after a five-minute stint in Guantanamo, the duo escapes to Florida and drives across the South to Texas, where their old friend Vanessa is getting married to a rich young Republican who might be able to help them get pardoned. This provides the skeleton for the movie to give us variations of scenes from the first movie, like another encounter with a redneck and his surprisingly hot wife, another cameo from Christopher Meloni (this time playing a Klan member with Tourette’s), and of course an extended, hilarious appearance from Neil Patrick Harris, again playing a womanizing, mushroom-smoking version of himself.
As is the nature of these types of movies, some episodes are funnier than others, although they rarely fall completely flat thanks to Penn and Cho’s easy camaraderie. The movie does grind to a halt, however, whenever it tries to inject a subplot about Kumar still being in love with Vanessa, who before getting engaged was a crazy stoner girl who actually introduced him to pot in the first place in a way-too-long flashback scene.
The movie’s climax sees Harold and Kumar accidentally parachuting into a home occupied by none other than George W. Bush (James Adomian).
Of all the government skewering, the president is actually given the most sympathetic portrayal, which is a little disappointing in the sense that the “My dad shouldn’t push me around anymore” characterization feels a good seven years old. Adomian’s impression is pretty good, though, despite looking absolutely nothing like Bush.
This sequel was originally just going to be called Harold and Kumar Go to Amsterdam, but writer/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, with a swell of inspiration, found themselves taking this new direction and just running with it. It’s a nice surprise. Overall the movie’s quite funny, about on par with this first. Penn and Cho again provide a very likable central duo, and Corddry and Patrick are priceless.
Movie Grade: B
Harold and Kumar are on their way to Amsterdam when they get a little sidetracked…