HAROLD & KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY
We've thus far managed to survive without sequels to Citizen Kane and Battleship Potemkin and Intolerance, so I'm not sure the world really needed a follow-up to Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, 2004's ne plus ultra of gross-out stoner comedies. Yet it's clear that we could've done a helluva lot worse than Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, a take-a-hit-and-miss effort in which, compared to its forebear, the highs are no higher, the lows are a tad lower, and the intentional stupidity is again tempered with bursts of shockingly subversive wit. As sequels go, it's no Godfather Part II, but it ain't Godfather Part III, either.
Beginning mere minutes after the White Castle adventure, Guantanamo Bay finds our heroes (John Cho's Korean-American Harold and Kal Penn's Indian-American Kumar) heading to the legalized paradise of Amsterdam, and having their vacation cut short when, mid-air, Kumar's smuggled bong is mistaken for a bomb. What follows is a brief stay in the notorious detention camp and another frenzied road trip, this one through the American South; be prepared to encounter inbred freaks, blustery Klansmen, and, God bless him, the brilliant Neil Patrick Harris.
Written and directed by White Castle scribes Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, several comic inspirations here fall flat - I could've done without the subplot involving Kumar's ex-girlfriend (Danneel Harris), complete with the de rigueur disruption-of-the-wedding climax - and the movie has a thrown-together quality that's frequently disorienting; more than a dozen off-screen punchlines seem to have been tacked on, and not at all well, during the looping process. (The film's sound is almost as weak as its photography, which is saying something.)
But for everything Guantanamo Bay gets wrong, it gets about three things right. Rob Corddry shows up as a frighteningly thick Homeland Security agent, and his bigoted attempts to wrest information from a group of African Americans and Harold's and Kumar's Jewish pals (David Krumholtz and Eddie Kaye Thomas) are miniature satiric explosions. White Castle's gonzo, anything-goes quality is happily intact - there's a return appearance by Kumar's randy, five-foot-tall bag of weed - as is its willingness to simultaneously mock and celebrate cultural and ethnic stereotypes. And even when individual jokes don't work, the lightning-quick camaraderie between Cho and Penn saves them. The movie's most intriguing sidebar is a college flashback in which we discover how Kumar turned into a class-A stoner, but although Harold pops up in the scene, we don't learn his story, or how he and Kumar came to be best buds. I'm officially jonesing for a prequel.