Warner Bros. // 2008 // 107 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 6th, 2008
"F -- -- you! Donuts are awesome!"
In their second adventure, hapless pals Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) find themselves fugitives from the Federal Government and passengers in a horrifying car ride with Neil Patrick Harris.
On their way to Amsterdam for an overseas adventure in legalized dope smoking, the boys encounter a small problem. They're mistaken as terrorists, bagged by some Air Marshals and shipped to Guantanamo Bay. When an opportunity to escape presents itself, they take it and are immediately pursued by Homeland Security agents, led by a complete buffoon (Rob Corddry), incestuous rednecks and their cyclopytic offspring, the Ku Klux Klan, and some ill-tempered whores.
Their destination: Texas, and a friend with political ties who can get them off the hook, but also happens to be marrying Kumar's love of his life.
For their sequel, Harold and Kumar embark on what is essentially a road movie, told in a sequence of ever-increasingly bizarre set-pieces. There is some chasing involved as well, of course, but there's not much tension in there as the pursuers are completely ridiculous, which defuses the ballyhooed political satire. More on that in a bit.
The big question is: will you laugh at this movie? If you liked the first film and your humor tends toward the disgusting, refer-raging, profane and outrageous then, yes, I think you'll have a good time with Harold and Kumar's Big Adventure. Some examples: Harold and Kumar infiltrate a Klan meeting undercover right after getting urinated on; Neil Patrick Harris brands a large-breasted prostitute; Harold and Kumar attend a "bottomless party" and are subjected to the traumatic sight of their friend's genitals; the one-eyed progeny of two hillbillies menaces them in a basement; Homeland Security agents interrogate an African-American man by slowly pouring out grape soda; and then there's the pot-smoking powwow with none other than George W. Bush. Does that sound funny to you? If so, you will laugh.
Me...I did laugh, but not as frequently and consistently to earn the effort a full-on recommendation. It was just too all-over-the-place, with the authentically clever and witty moments offset by contrived and overwrought set-ups that don't go anywhere. Neil Patrick Harris hallucinating that he's riding a unicorn? Great! Harold and Kumar faced with the prospect of performing fellatio on Guantanamo Bay prison guards? Eh, a little too much. Rob Corddry and Ed Helms trying to communicate to Harold's parents in Korean? Hilarious. Rob Corddry intimidating a Jewish witness by dumping out pennies in front of him? Too obvious. The backwoods white couple actually a high-class, cultured family despite Harold and Kumar's stereotypical impressions? Clever. The backwoods white couple that appeared to be high-class and cultured but are actually siblings that have sex and gave birth to a hideously-deformed freak? Backsliding into predictability.
Finally, about the politics. When the film hit theaters earlier in the year, I read reviews lauding the incisive, smart political satire. Yeah, not seeing it. At its core, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is a goofy, gross-out buddy movie aimed squarely at the fun-loving frat-boy crowd. Nothing wrong with that of course, but I'd refrain from assigning it the Political Movie of the Year Honors just yet. The world of Harold and Kumar bears little resemblance to ours and all "politically-tinged" comic elements are so over-the-top (W getting wasted in his rumpus room and calling his dad to complain about his childhood, Homeland Security officials unsure of how to deal with Harold's oddly shape eyes, mandatory blowjobs in Guantanamo Bay) it's impossible to take them seriously. Basically, if your inner middle schooler is yearning for some cheap laughs and boobs, don't let your politically-sensitive grown-up be deterred.
New Line has served up a great two-disc DVD set. Disc One holds the feature film, transferred in a great-looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, two commentary tracks -- with the cast and directors and the directors and cast in character -- and the "Dude, Change the Movie" feature, a choose-your-adventure mechanism that actually works pretty well and leads to some funny alternate sequences. Disc Two is all extra features, with a large making-of-featurette, 27 deleted scenes, outtakes, a PSA from "George W. Bush" and trailers.
Drugs, nudity (lots of nudity by the way -- lots), gross-out gags and profanity make this an Unrated version that truly deserved the label. The movie itself is funny, though uneven. Great release from New Line, which includes a truly fun and unique interactive feature.
Not guilty. Turn in you orange jumpsuits.
Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Interactive Change the Movie
* Two Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Bush PSA