Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay — Everything’s perfectly normal here

“Did you see that unicorn? Its horn was so shiny… “

Justin’s rating: NPH could stand for a lot of things, I suppose

Justin’s review: At the beginning of Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Boy, Kumar states that their proposed trip will be “like Eurotrip, only it won’t suck.”

Three things about that statement rose to the surface of my head while watching the remainder of this movie:

  1. Eurotrip is a consistently funny, entertaining movie, and it most certainly is not deserving of this slander.
  2. Harold & Kumar 2 was far worse
  3. Kumar is, quite frankly, an arrogant little jerk, and that quote is indicative of how unlikable his character becomes, even while he’s being set up as the main hero of the story.

This comedy sequel to the culty road trip flick about two stoner buddies on an epic quest through New Jersey to find a White Castle to satiate their hunger picks up where the first movie ended (which, in itself, is kind of unusual for many sequels that aren’t produced back-to-back). Brimming with newfound confidence, the formerly meek Harold decides to jet across the Atlantic to surprise his newfound lovemonkey in Amsterdam while Kumar goes along for the weed.

Before their flight even makes it across the ocean, the duo are arrested – the moral here is don’t bring bongs aboard flights and try to smoke them – and detained in the notorious U.S. military prison. From there they flee back to the country that arrested them (hur?) and go on another wacky road trip ranging from Florida to Alabama to Texas while the law pursues them. Someone obviously cracked open the book on Southern stereotypes and challenged themselves to use everything in it.

Harold and Kumar 2 knows where its meal ticket comes from and tries slavishly hard to follow the formula that made the first film popular: ethnic jokes (movie law says that’s okay if the leads are both minorities, I guess), loads of nudity (seriously, I can’t believe how much they get away with showing in an R-rating these days), gross-out jokes, a love letter written to marijuana, and weirdness slathered all over the place. Yes, if you want to see both Neil Patrick Harris riding a unicorn and a cyclops toddler curling up in bed with our main guys, this might be the only film in the universe for you.

Yet it’s that strict adherence to trying to recapture the exact essence of the first movie that drags this sequel down to only a shade above mediocre. Sure, there’s some funny stuff. Hilarious stuff, even. But there’s many more jokes that just fall flat when they should’ve worked, and you keep getting a feeling of déjà vu as they recall scenes from the first movie instead of forging a new path. Even Harold, who’s supposed to have gone through tremendous character growth at the end of the first film, has reverted back to his nebbish, whiny self in time to go through the same process all over again. There’s even more flag waving about how awesome marijuana is, but you kind of expect that from this genre.

There are some heavy-handed jabs at George W. Bush, Homeland Security, Guantanamo Bay and terrorism, but by now – even in movies – this is an old hat, particularly when it’s done as tepidly as it is here. The guy they get to play Bush doesn’t even look remotely like him, and still the crew slathers so much makeup on the poor actor in an attempt to rectify it that he looks frightening.

It’s an uneven path from the beginning to the end of this movie. What it left me with was a slightly sour taste in my mind that I’ve been trying to put a finger on. I think it’s that Harold and Kumar 2 tries to rise above its lowbrow antics to give us a Serious Adult Talk. These are stoners who represent and worship only the basest things: cheap sex, cheap drugs, and gross-out humor. When they have the nerve to try to make a deep political point or to try to preach at me about how I should give the drug culture a break because it’s so misunderstood, that’s when my sinuses become clear because I’ve let out a hearty snort. Harold? Kumar? Get back to mowing my lawn and serving me delicious Sliders at White Castle. You need to save all that money for drug college – no scholarships for you.

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