a critiQal film review Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (2008)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: On their way to Amsterdam, stoners Harold (Cho) and Kumar (Penn) are mistaken for terrorists and sent to Guantanamo Bay. Quickly breaking out, the pair begin a crazy cross-country journey to clear their names.

Reviewed
888 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 26s)

After surprising ourselves by laughing uproariously at Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle (especially Neil Patrick Harris’ off-the-wall performance), we were looking forward to seeing what the crazy duo (and NPH, of course) would do in their sequel, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay – and then we saw the preview.

Basing the whole film on the real American fear of terrorists after the tragic events of 9/11 didn’t seem to be a laughing matter. Instead, it’s a sad commentary on how easily Americans group other cultures together – and, in the news following 9/11, led to horrendous beatings of innocent people. Apparently, that seemed worthy of a few laughs for the Harold & Kumar writers.

With that kind of a setup, I for one definitely wasn’t going to see this in theaters. Sure, some movies could use that as a basis for a commentary on how American attitudes need to change on this subject, but since it’s a Harold & Kumar movie, chances are they are just going to use the idea for a couple of cheap laughs. With racial divides existing in this country since it’s inception (we’ve moved from Native Americans to Blacks to Arabs to now Mexicans with this idiotic self-serving attitude), using the idea for cheap laughs seems to be just hiding the gaping wound under a bandage – utterly pointless.

Still, we were hoping that after that first bit, Harold and Kumar’s second film would redeem itself by delving back into the hilarious idiocy that made the first film a laugh riot.

John Cho and Kal Penn, now with a modest hit under their belts, return for the sequel without the eagerness they brought to their characters in the first film. Instead, their performances seem lackluster and far more forced than in the original, with John Cho the only one of the two really seeming to make any effort at all.

Unfortunately, even that little bit of effort is largely wasted in this film, as the storyline this time around casts Cho’s Harold in an even bigger fish-out-of-water scenario – but unlike the first film, Escape From Guantanamo Bay doesn’t even cast him a line, instead preferring he flop around helplessly amidst the chaos around him.

Even Neil Patrick Harris, the funniest part of Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, is a disappointment in this second film, with only a few scenes – some of which are even too idiotic for him to improve on.

“Daily Show” vets Rob Corddry and Ed Helms very nearly save the film all by themselves, as they pop up in the only funny scene of the entire film. Watching Rob and Ed “interpret” the English that Cho’s parents are speaking (and not understanding it at all, even as Roger Bart and a few other cast members watch and listen in exasperation) is hilarious, and the only real comic moment of the entire film.

Since Harold and Kumar 2 seems to want to be a spoof more than anything else, an appearance by sitting Prez George W. Bush is a must. Unfortunately, this time around he’s played by James Adomian, one of the worst imitators of George W. ever seen on screen. Since his resemblance barely approaches similar – and his voice imitation is nothing short of awful, audience will be hard-pressed to accept this guy as the Prez for even one second – making his appearance something that should have been left on the cutting room floor. The fact the filmmakers kept it in says a lot about the low class of this sequel.

Sadly, even though most of the acting is incredibly disappointing, it’s not even the worst part of this tossed together sequel. Aside from the racial strife humor they try to make work in the beginning of the film, they also try to poke fun at everything from the Ku Klux Klan to inbreeding and prison abuse – not really the normal humorous topics. Unsurprisingly, most of these sequences come off as awkward and uncomfortable for all parties involved, and don’t really lend themselves to the humor the filmmakers are trying to create.

When that doesn’t work so well, the film reverts to an even lower level – ie. potty jokes and unnecessary nudity. While the potty jokes are as lame as can be expected, the unnecessary nudity is incredibly blatant (stopping at a friend’s house, they discover he’s having a “bottomless” party for no apparent reason).

Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, despite sinking to the lowest level possible with humor, will barely raise a chuckle out of any viewer over the age of, say, 13.

Viewers will get the impression that the filmmakers were trying to create a live-action version of the rude and crude “South Park” rather than trying to recreate the hilarity of Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle – unfortunately, they left the humor out of the equation.

With its sole highlight being the team of Ed Helms and Rob Corddry in a too-brief sequence, Harold and Kumar 2 is one of the worst comedy films I’ve ever seen – and that includes the idiotic Scary Movie series.

Stay away from Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay – catch Rob and Ed’s team up on YouTube or something instead, and save yourself the pain of having to sit through this.

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