Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay – Movie Review
Every once in a while, there comes along a film which is so utterly stupid and juvenile, one cannot help but admire it for its rampant idiocy.
I suppose this is a long cinematic tradition which must have been started with the stoner odyssey Cheech and Chong’s “Up in Smoke” and the increasingly unwatchable string of sequels. In recent years, there have been a number of worthy entrants to this micro-sub genre – by dropping the Stoner motif, both the “Bill and Ted’s..” films, “Good Burger,” and “Dude, Where’s My Car” were able to slip through the cinema classifications as naïve family films, but the protagonists’ particular strand of dopey buddy comedy is undeniably better enjoyed through a fug of smoke.
In 2004, there came the somewhat unprecedented addition to the fold in the shape of “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle.” Audiences outside of America were hard pushed to realise White Castle was a burger chain, so it was conveniently renamed to the more self-explanatory “…Get the Munchies.” It was lensed by the same director as “Dude,…” so what we had was the same sort of freewheeling, logic-leaping nonsense, but this time granted an adult rating – ultimately resulting in “American Pie” style gross out humour and an endless torrent of gastric slapstick. Highbrow it ain’t. Still, audiences liked it enough for the film to make a profit, and a sequel inevitable.
“Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” follows on minutes after the events of the original film, and continues in pretty much the same vein – there’s no time wasted in making sure the tone is suitably lowered, and there is no attempt to raise it one iota out of the gutter over the next 90mins. As always, expectation is the key to satisfaction, and if you’re expecting Helena Bonham Carter emoting through a wimple, you’re likely to be disappointed. If however, you should happen to be in a slightly frazzled state of mind and are open to a basin of scatological humour, then step right this way.
Make no mistake, there’s no hidden agenda, no political subtext (despite the implication of the title), no clever left wing snipes at the NeoCons – there is simply race, sex, religion, and of course drug -based gags. Inevitably, some fall wide of the mark, some make you snort with glee, and many will have you flinching in disgust.
What endears the film to me is that it is so wholly unapologetic in its bravado. This is clearly helped by the two heroes being of Korean and Indian heritage respectively, resulting in a sort of politically correct carte blanche – an aspect that is exploited and satirised to maximum effect in a scene with the guys’ 2 sets of parents talking to Homeland Security agents.
The genuine highlight of the film is the triumphant return of Neil Patrick Harris (as pictured above) playing an extreme self-satire of the “burnt out child actor”. The former Doogie Howser MD star stumbles into the film’s plot much as he did its prequel, and plays a drug chomping, sex crazed nutball with such gleeful abandon that you can’t help but admire him. I had to cackle when a star-struck cop declares “your performance in Starship Troopers is what made me sign up, sir.” In actual fact there have been rumours of an NPH spin-off movie. I suspect these might be misguided and fruitless though.
So, Harold & Kumar 2 – a wilfully juvenile, scat-alicious stoner road movie that’s bound to offend everyone who watches it. Great fun, but don’t watch it with your parents.