Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Rob Corddry, Jack Conley,
Roger Bart, Neil Patrick Harris. Rated R.
Whether Harold & Kumar
Escape From Guantanamo Bay could have
succeeded in spawning a franchise on its own is questionable, but as a
politically charged follow-up to the winning 2004 comedy that introduced the
pair as twenty-something stoners in search of the perfect late-night snack, it
hits more often than it misses.
Yes, it coasts on some of the
residual charm of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, in which the genial duo embarked on a near-Odyssean quest
for bite-sized burgers, unprepared for the backwoods perils awaiting them –
feral beasts, racist cops and Neil Patrick Harris. But once again, Harold (John
Cho) and the proudly underachieving Kumar (Kal Penn) tempt fate in pursuit of
herbal enlightenment, enduring incarceration, deportation and, perhaps worst of
all, a trip through red-state hell that would make Dante blush.
After an ill-fated
Amsterdam earns them one-way tickets to Guantanamo, Harold and Kumar hitch a
boat ride back to the mainland to prove their innocence – they’re not
terrorists, after all, just recreational potheads in possession of one
suspicious-looking bong. After they wash up in Miami, their oddball odyssey
resumes, at one point landing them in the lap of the Ku Klux Klan (led by White
Castle alum Christopher Meloni, who makes
the most of his cameo) and later at the Crawford, Texas, ranch of President
George W. Bush.
Of course, no Harold &
Kumar adventure would be complete without
an appearance by Harris, and “Guantanamo” doesn’t disappoint. Once again
playing himself as a cocky, drug-addled lothario consumed by his quest for the
next high, the erstwhile Doogie Howser is no longer the revelation he was in White
Castle – his persona is by now established
– but the sheer audacity of his narcissism, fueled by his feverish consumption
of hallucinogens, provides some of the film’s funniest moments.
the original, Harold, a
Korean-American, and Kumar, an Indian-American, are routinely victimized by
authorities for whom racial profiling and reflexive stereotyping seem like
unwritten matters of policy. Worst of the lot is Ron Fox (Rob Corddry, of The
Daily Show), a Homeland Security agent
whose methods are as cartoonishly unorthodox as they are unhygienic and crass.
(During one particularly awkward interrogation, he uses the Bill of Rights as
toilet paper. Literally.)
Fox is a buffoon, an
equal-opportunity offender who belittles all comers in his wild-eyed bid to
protect America’s (white) children. An unsubtle stereotype in his own right, he
remains a wickedly amusing repudiation of post-9/11 hysteria.
and Hayden Schlossberg are far more sympathetic to President Bush (James
Adomian), depicted as an overgrown child living in the shadow of an
impossible-to-please father. That he idles away his time on the ranch smoking
government-grade pot laced with cocaine might raise eyebrows in more
conservative circles, but in the skewed world of Harold and Kumar, it seems
like nothing less than an act of patriotism.