There is but one reason as to why this movie review is so late – I purposely looked to avoid watching Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Even though I consider myself an incestuous lover of sophomoric movies, I just couldn’t consummate the affair with the original Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle – so much so that I’ve had heated exchanges with people over my insistence that even Kung Pow: Enter the Fist was wildly funnier. Further cementing my stance on avoidance was the fact that Neil Patrick Harris was being prominently marketed in advertisements (his scenes in the original film were the only funny ones). This told me writer/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg didn’t have much material to go with.
It hurts when I’m right.
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is worse than it’s predecessor. The over-driving factor for me was the slap-in-the-face political agenda put forth. Dramas have a hard enough time tackling the subject matter without getting bruised and bloodied, so it can be said it is suicide for a comedy to try. It starts with the abuse of Guantanamo Bay prisoners (they’re forced to eat “cock sandwiches”), then it runs along with a dim-witted Homeland Security agent Ron Fox (Rob Corddry) who wipes his ass with the Bill of Rights and does every racist thing imaginable, and ultimately lands on a ridiculous portrayal of President George W. Bush as a pot-smoking dumbass who fears his father and the vice-president.
Next, the asinine journey and ensuing situations Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) find themselves in don’t have the same level of whimsy to them as they did the first time around. Everything is more jaded and hard-core – it’s clear these guys aren’t having any fun. And how could they? Repeatedly they find themselves running from the law, the Ku Klux Klan, “gangbangers” and killer whores, just to mention a few. Sure, now and again one of the jokes will make you laugh – you’ve got to love a “bottomless” party and the nearly stereotypical rednecks – but for the most part the jokes land with a deafening thud.
Which leads to the biggest letdown, Neil Patrick Harris (who will always be known as Mr. Doogy Howser to me). His unexpected appearance in the first film was brilliant. In Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay his drugged out, sex-crazed persona was completely played out. Wow, he’s eating a bagful of mushrooms – seen it. Whoopie, he’s trying to screw everyone and everything in arms reach – seen that too. Everyone responsible for this movie managed to take one of the funnier moments in recent comedy history and tarnish it. Congratulations.
On the other front, the role of the douchebag agent had to be written with Rob Corddry in mind. He’s made himself quite the living playing these character types (generally in smaller parts though) and he’s gotten very good at it. He takes annoyingly stupid to new heights and he takes an otherwise forgettable role and makes it pretty much the only bright spot in this otherwise bland movie. I’ll also say that for the most part, Cho and Penn don’t miss a beat picking up where their underachieving roles left off (four year hiatus between flicks) even if the writing did.
So my final verdict on Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is 20 to life for the writer/director duo. They need time to think about what they’ve done. I sentence anyone who thinks this movie is a laugh riot to a good old fashioned stoning. My figures show we’ll be able to eliminate roughly 100,000 hard-core stoners from the populace. That’s usually regarded as a good thing.