This is going to come out the wrong way, but I don’t remember a whole lot about Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. It’s not because I was stoned. Seriously.
But I really don’t remember a whole lot about that first film, except that I thought it was pretty funny. Much like the similarly themed Dude, Where’s My Car? (of which I remember more), Harold and Kumar didn’t do well in the theaters, necessarily, but it found a huge life on video. I guess the stoner crowd really doesn’t like to leave their couch.
I had mixed feelings going into Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. While I liked the first film, I was unsettled by the title. It’s not that I thought they would be treading on sacred ground, but I worried that with it coming out in a flood of politically relevant films that the movie would actually try to have a message. And who wants to be preached at… especially during a stoner comedy.
Fortunately, the movie really doesn’t preach. In fact, the equally silly Zombie Strippers has more preaching in it than this film. So, they were clear on that front.
The Guantanamo Bay angle was more of a jumping-off point for the film and allowed the ethnic stereotyping to come from a meglomaniacal Homeland Security officer (Rob Corddry) instead of local law enforcement. And sure, George W. Bush comes in for a pot-smoking cameo (which is in the trailers, so this isn’t much of a spoiler), but oddly enough the film stays out of politics.
Still, it’s not much more than a retread of the first film. In fact, when you strip away all the details, the movie is the exact same film with the exact same jokes. Instead of trying to get to White Castle, they’re trying to get to Amsterdam.
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay shows the stoner pair boarding a train so Harold (John Cho) can meet up with his sexy neighbor in Amsterdam. However, Kumar can’t wait for a hit, so he smuggles a bong onto the plane and takes a hit in the bathroom. When an old lady sees the bong, she things it’s a bomb. Harold and Kumar are then arrested, interrogated and sent to Guantanamo Bay.
The rest of the film is your basic zany road trip with the guys getting back to America and then driving to Washington to clear their name. Along the way, they get help from the fiancé of Kumar’s ex. Oh, and Neil Patrick Harris also shows up, and he is glorious.
There are some very funny moments in this movie. Unfortunately, if you’ve seen the trailer, you have seen most of them. Other jokes try to be funny, but they either go too far that it ceases being funny, or they don’t go far enough and leave the scene without any guts.
Other aspects of the story are forced in order to justify a script. For some reason, they have inserted this tired 80s rom com subplot with Kumar and his ex girlfriend. It seems that they are trying to pay loving homage to some corny The Sure Thing rip-off, but they commit so much to this that they lose its funniest parts. They don’t take the spoof far enough with silliness and then take the subplot too seriously that it just fell flat
I suppose you can say that the core Harold and Kumar audience of stoners and slackers will enjoy the rude humor and drug references, but the rest of us clean and sober folks are going to be left cold.
THE UPSIDE: It still has its funny moments.
THE DOWNSIDE: Again, we have to look at someone’s penis in a major film release.
ON THE SIDE: I’m really jonesing for a White Castle right now.