John Cho as Harold Lee
Kal Penn as Kumar Patel
Rob Corddry as Ron Fox
Roger Bart as Dr. Beecher
Neil Patrick Harris as Neil Patrick Harris
Danneel Harris as Vanessa
David Krumholtz as Goldstein
Eddie Kaye Thomas as Rosenberg
Jack Conley as Deputy Frye
Eric Winter as Colton
Paula Garcés as Maria
Jon Reep as Raymus
Missi Pyle as Raylene
Mark Munoz as Cyrus
James Adomian as George W. Bush
Beverly D’Angelo as Sally
Echo Valley as Tits Hemmingway
Directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg
More tasteless fun from the ethnic stoners who bring their own unique socio-political slant to the typical stoner road comedy.
Harold Lee and Kumar Patel (John Cho, Kal Penn) are on their way to Amsterdam, chasing after Harold’s dream girl, but after an incident on an airplane, they’re imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay as terrorists. Even though they’re able to escape–as the title would suggest–they still have to face an overzealous federal agent (Rob Corddry) who’ll stop at nothing to catch them and send them back into Gitmo.
As often as there are sequels to comedies that no one but the producers and their expensive trophy wives may want, and as many times as there are great comedies that never get much-deserved sequels, every once in a while the stars align and a genuinely funny but mostly overlooked comedy gets a deserved sequel that actually surpasses the original movie. That is certainly the case with “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay,” which follows where the story left off four years earlier in the theatrical flop “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” with a much more political slant to mirror the climate in the country since George W. was reelected.
Writer/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg certainly know their audience for this sequel, and it might not necessarily be the stoner fratboys some might expect. Certainly, there’s an aspect of the movie that will appeal to the fans of Kevin Smith’s sense of humor, but it’s not just a series of gags and encounters like “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.” There’s also a strong story that takes place the day after the last movie as Harold and Kumar’s plans to go to Amsterdam gets sidetracked by the heightened air security and their ethnicity, as they’re accused of being Arab and North Korean terrorists and shipped off to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where they experience the horrors explored in many recent docs. The sequel also offers a surprising amount of romance for the duo, not just Harold chasing his dream girl Maria, but Kumar proves himself to be a romantic with his feelings for Vanessa (the absolutely adorable Daneel Harris), the ex-girlfriend who first got him high who’s left her wild girl days behind her to marry an ultra-conservative jerk from Texas, who just happens to be the only guy who can get the duo out of their new mess.
Cho and Penn show a lot of growth as actors since the first movie, but surprisingly, Harold and Kumar don’t imbibe in nearly as many drugs as they did in the first movie, maybe because they’re too busy running for their life. The road comedy humor from the first movie is heightened by the fact that you have an Indian and a Korean traveling through the deep South, allowing them to play with Southern stereotypes, whether it’s meeting a hunter or crashing a KKK meeting.
Most of the film’s funniest wrongness comes in the form of Rob Corddry, a racist Federal agent who uses blatant cliches against the ethnic types he interrogates. He is absolutely hilarious when doing so, getting the biggest laughs in every scene, countered well by Roger Bart as his conscientious “good cop” partner.
There’s a lot of silliness and dumb physical humor along the way–as much as you try to resist, you’ll probably end up laughing anyway–but there’s also enough sharp political commentary amidst the gratuitous nudity and the not so clever bathroom humor to not make you not feel so bad about it.
It’s hard to determine whether this sequel works as a standalone movie, since some of the funniest bits are the nods to the first movie that only true fans will appreciate. There’s lots of callbacks, and not just NPH (Neil Patrick Harris) who has a far bigger role as himself, a celebrity who gets more out of control the more drugs he takes. When he picks up the guys and treats them at a whorehouse, things go downhill from there. One of the funniest bits though is a flashback to years earlier when Harold first meets Vanessa and we get to see what the guys were like before they discovered marijuana.
The movie does lose a bit of steam as it goes along, maybe because some of the funniest jokes are in the first hour, but the whole things culminates in an appearance by the Commander in Chief that’s more than slightly amusing even if it’s not the most convincing look or sound-a-like.
The Bottom Line:
This may be the most deliberately unapologetic politically-incorrect movie ever made, and it’s so wrong in so many ways. With the current political climate, this might be exactly what Americans need to be able to laugh with Harold and Kumar at our own social morays and ineptitude. Either way, this is easily the funniest movie since “Superbad” and a more than satisfying sequel.