Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

© 2008 Ray Wong


Some sequels should never have been made.

photo1Picking up the day after the original movie, Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) are all set for their trip to Amsterdam to surprise Harold's new squeeze, Maria (Paula Garcés), and to partake in legal marijuana. A pot-related incident on the flight causes Harold and Kumar to end in Guantanamo Bay as suspected terrorists.

photo2Having escaped from the prison, they embark on a cross-country journey trying to find Colton (Eric Winter), the fiance of Kumar's ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Danneel Harris). Even though Kumar hates Colton (but Harold thinks Colton is a friend), they realize his connection with the government would be an asset to help them get out of trouble. Over the course of the escape, of course Harold and Kumar get into more and more troubles, including a reunion with the habitually high Neil Patrick Harris.

photo3John Cho (Star Trek) and Kal Penn (The Namesake) reprise their roles as the stoned odd couple. In The Namesake, Kal Penn proves that he could do serious drama. Unfortunately, he continues to be typecast as an ethnic clown in movies such as Epic Movie and Superman Returns. The ridiculously clueless Kumar made Penn a star, but in this sequel, Penn overplays the character to a point you just want to smack him every time he's on screen. Even a 3-year-old boy acts more mature than he does. Cho fares somewhat better as the uptight, by-the-book Harold. Unfortunately, he is not allowed to play to the character's depth as he did in the original.

photo4Rob Corddry (What Happens in Vegas...) plays an incredibly offensive idiot with energy. His character's ignorance and obnoxiousness become repetitive and tiring very quickly. Corddry does the best he can. Roger Bart (American Gangster) has not much to do as the reserved and sympathetic NSA operative; at least he brings some needed humanity to the mayhem around him. Danneel Harris (Extreme Movie) does her job well, despite slim character development, as the object of Kumar's affection. Eric Winter (Brothers & Sisters) joins the rank of ex-jock slimeballs with a wink and super-white teeth. But it's Neil Patrick Harris who steals the show -- once again -- as a fictionalized version of himself. There's just something perverse about watching NPH acting out as a straight, womanizing junkie.

photo5Writer-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle) try to follow their surprise hit in 2004 with this half-boiled sequel. While the original had similarly graphic sex and humor, it also had a strange innocence about it. After all, Harold and Kumar were high throughout the first movie, so it was actually fun to see two stoned guys doing stupid things. The original movie also was devoid of the sinister aspects that are prevalent in this sequel. There are so many things wrong about this movie -- but I'll try to list them here:

photo6First, Harold and Kumar are not stoned this time. That makes their stupidity and recklessness painful to watch. These guys are Ivy League students, but they act like circus clowns without the influence of drugs. Kumar, in particular, becomes so irritating and unlikable. It's okay to be stupid, but when he's also selfish, unreasonable, and obnoxious, it's really difficult to identify with him. It's a no-brainer why Harold is mad at him, but what I don't understand is why Harold still tags along? Here's a smart, responsible guy. What's his deal?

photo7I get it -- it's a comedy. But even with comedies, we need some rhyme and reasons for these behaviors. Hurwitz and Schlossberg offer us none. Not to mention they include some of the most offensive characters in movie history: Rob Corddry as the National Security official, in particular, is so off-putting that it's not even funny. It's difficult to make racism funny, and they really fail here. I suppose we're supposed to glean from this movie some social lessons: that racism is bad and one must grow up and face their responsibilities, etc. But all is lost in this big yarn of offensive, sophomoric gags ranging from homophobia and scatology. And the biggest problem is, after the first movie and this, Harold and Kumar still won't grow up.

photo8So here's my final recommendation: escape from this stinker!

Stars: John Cho, Kal Penn, Rob Corddry, Jack Conley, Roger Bart, Neil Patrick Harris, Danneel Harris, Eric Winter, Paula Garcés
Directors: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Writers: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Distributor: Warner Bros
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language and drug use
Running Time: 100 Minutes


Script – 4
Performance – 5
Direction – 5
Cinematography – 6
Music/Sound– 6
Editing – 7
Production – 6

Total – 5.1 out of 10

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