There is no way that “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” should’ve been a hit. It was about two guys who just wanted to smoke pot and eat some burgers but managed to find trouble and hi-jinks galore along the way. But a hit it was, and so now we have “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.” The surprising part? It’s actually not that bad and pretty funny to boot.
So, our boys are back. This time they’re on a plane heading to Amsterdam so Harold (John Cho, “American Pie”) can see his ladylove Maria. It’s on this plane that Kumar (Kal Penn, “Van Wilder”) decides to light up a bong, which just so happens to look like a bomb. This sets in motion a series of crazy misunderstandings and Harold and Kumar find themselves fugitives after escaping from Guantanamo Bay. By now, you’ve probably figured out that this isn’t a plausible plot. But go with it — it’s more fun that way.
While the first film was really all about having a good time, this one has somewhat of a message to deliver, though not all that subtly: “Unless you are preppy, rich and white, the government will screw you over.” This is personified through Ron Fox (Rob Corddry, “The Heartbreak Kid”), a government agent as racist as he is stupid, who truly believes Harold and Kumar are terrorists and will stop at nothing to catch them. Of course this pursuit involves moments that are downright offensive to just about every race and creed. The more sensitive moviegoer might be insulted, but this movie isn’t for that demographic, now is it?
The film’s main flaw comes from its attempts to one-up just about everything from the previous film, as it’s more than a little excessive. Within the first ten minutes there’s explosive diarrhea and masturbation, as well as more full-frontal nudity than one could ever really want. Bigger isn’t always better in this case – unless it refers to the even more over the top cameo by Neil Patrick Harris – as the strength of the film still lies in the friendship and banter shared between the two leads.
Despite their excessive vulgarity and coarseness, Harold and Kumar turn out to be pretty sweet, even romantic, guys. It seems maturity has started to rear its ugly head, as the motivation behind their actions turns out to be love, not drugs. Kumar even delivers a romantic speech at the end, in a scene that could have felt hokey and false but instead feels genuine and fresh. Of course, it’s also delivered amidst fighting and flatulence, but such is the universe this film lives in.
The credit should go to Cho and Penn, who both make us care about these two stoners who just can’t quite keep themselves out of trouble. These same characters have all been seen before – Bill and Ted, Cheech and Chong – but here they are more than just stereotypes. These characters are fully fleshed out. While the trouble and situations they manage to get into often seem almost too impossible to be real (smoking weed with George W. Bush anyone?) they’re still plenty enjoyable.
Summertime is a time for films that practically require you to turn off your brains while watching. That’s not necessarily a bad thing all the time and you’ll find that if your brain is switched off, “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” is actually a surprisingly good time.