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April 28, 2008 | Comments ()



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White Castle Fries Only Come In One Size

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay / Agent Bedhead

Film Reviews | April 28, 2008 | Comments ()


Stoner comedies are a dime bag a dozen, and, like so many such slacker-oriented comedies, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle went largely unnoticed at the box office but found its redemption by reaching cult status upon DVD release. The film’s excessively banal humor and high gross-out factor were surprisingly tolerable because of the film’s vague undercurrent of of cleverness and self-awareness, which never ascended to the levels of artificiality. The enduring friendship and genuine rapport between Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) seemed realistic enough, and the film only really wanted to entertain its audiences through a hilariously absurd storyline of two buddies on the ultimate quest to satisfy their extreme munchies. While I’d personally rather shit twice and die than eat a White Castle hamburger, the first film, despite its grotesqueness, carried an inexplicably charming aura, which was likely due to the understated performances of the starring comedic duo. For those who were bedazzled by Harold and Kumar’s first cinematic venture, let me harsh your buzz a bit by asserting that something went quite wrong when screenwriters John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg assumed the directorial chairs for the followup, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Since we’re in sequel territory at this point, one would assume bigger misadventures for the stoner duo, but, instead of fortifying the duo’s supply of weed, the size of their baggies has merely been increased and cut with the hair of your college roomate’s Chia Pet. Never mind that four years have elasped between Go To White Castle and the filming of Escape from Guantanamo Bay, and, consequently, Kal Penn no longer looks like a freshly graduated twenty something.

Damn that hard-living, junk-food loving lifestyle.

So, last time we left our elegantly wasted antiheroes, the Asian-American Harold and the Indian-American Kumar had just reached their grease-laden oasis and downed the coveted “slyders.” Escape from Guantanamo Bay picks up the story a few hours later and immediately sets the tone with a lovely opening scene involving Kumar on the toilet because, you see, those 30 slyders eventually have to go somewhere. Afterwards, Harold and Kumar head towards Amsterdam where the drugs are dope and the girls are fly. This leads to the rather predictable racial-profiling scene at the airport security checkpoint followed by Kumar’s next auspicious trip to the lavatory, where his smokeless bong is mistaken for a bomb. After the requisite tackle and arrest, Harold and Kumar find themselves at Guantanamo Bay. The stoners’ stay at the federal detention center is very brief, as opposed to the rest of the film, but the resulting sights and sounds make this sequence feel a whole lot longer.These Gitmo guards force their inmates to perform sex upon the guards themselves, which somehow seems completely backwards, but, then again, looking for consistency in a stoner flick isn’t an encouraged practice. Harold and Kumar quickly escape and hitch a ride to Miami with some Cuban refugees. The drug-fueled odyssey continues towards Texas, where they hope that their politically-connected college buddy Colton (Eric Winter) can help the duo clear their names. On the way, Harold and Kumar attend an authentic “bottomless party,” wander into a Ku Klux Klan rally, and acquire many other tasteless experiences. Of course, there is also the well-publicized pot-smoking session with the commander-in-chief George W. Bush (James Adomian), which packs little punch for what it could have been.

Admittedly, this just a stoner comedy and shouldn’t be taken seriously, but the subject matter — homophobia, racism, terrorism, rape, torture, incest — is pretty hefty. Humor can often heal, and, ideally, would remedy the box-office fatigue exhibited by the failure of recent war-related films. That was my only hope for this film, but the script is far too uneven for the overall humor to work here. I can appreciate outrageousness as much as anyone else, but to be outrageous just to be outrageous and then to lazily rocket-launch it in the general direction of grand statements about lofty topics, well, it just doesn’t work for me. The main downfall of Escape from Guantanamo Bay is the misguided sequel thinking of the filmmakers. Instead of carrying on what really worked in the first film, the storyline of the sequel is too aspirational, and that’s not what the relatively innocent charm of the first “Harold and Kumar” film — an absurdly simple, yet ultimately entertaining, roadtrip adventure — was all about. While a film sequel should never merely rehash its predecessor, both films should at least run thematically parallel to each other. With Escape from Guantanamo Bay, the broad-based offensiveness feels less spontaneous and more scattershot, and the racial satire isn’t aimed well enough to actually succeed. Worst of all, this sequel just isn’t as funny as the original. One exception to this would be the return of Neil Patrick Harris playing a twisted version of himself: a shroom-eating, whore-loving, and very heterosexual version of “Neil Patrick Harris.” Of course, since the first film, Harris has officially come out of the closet, which makes his performance as himself even more subversive and actually gets the point across that, when it comes to stereotypes, virtually no one is what they seem to be. When the former “Doogie Howser, M.D.” visits a bordello helmed by Sally (Beverly D’Angelo), it feels like the best “E! True Hollywood” story ever. Sadly, this guilty pleasure is one of the only real hits from this film’s bong.

For all its misguidedly overambitious and extravagant themes, Escape from Guantanamo Bay probably won’t disappoint those who look forward to a consistent supply of raunchy jokes that largely center upon our society’s unfortunate preoccupation with bodily functions. These highlights include urine and ejaculation facials, lots of full-frontal male and female nudity, and a Secretary of Defense Ron Fox (Rob Corddry) who wipes his ass with the Bill of Rights. With that said, the film’s cult audience will probably enjoy what’s been loaded up in this pipe, and the film will probably fare excellently at the box office as long as the concession stands properly provide copious amounts of bitchin’ munchies.

Agent Bedhead (a.k.a. “Kimberly”) lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and may never get rid of the contact high. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.



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