April 28, 2008

Movie Review: Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

In 2004 writer Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg wrote a film pairing supporting cast members of American Pie and Van Wilder in a high concept stoner movie. Ha ha, I said "high" concept about a weed movie! Said movie's title told you pretty much everything you needed to know, it named the primary characters and told you what they were going to do. The title is: Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. It proved to be a modest theatrical success that has gained something of a cult following since its debut. The movie proved to be quite funny, particularly the cameo by Neil Patrick Harris. Now, here we are four years later and the film has found itself with a sequel. Can it live up to its predecessor? The answer is yes. Of course, it stayed true to the formula set forth by that original film, to stray from it would likely prove deadly.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay picks up right where White Castle left off. The duo had engorged themselves on White Castle eats and Harold (John Cho) confessed his love to his neighbor, Maria. It was a confession that proved worthwhile, although happiness is short lived as Maria is preparing to leave for Amsterdam. We open with Harold and Kumar heading off to the airport to hop a plane to Amsterdam, excited over the prospect of reuniting with Maria, but equally excited about all of the legal weed they could ever want, a stoner's paradise.

Problems begin for the intrepid two when Kumar (Kal Penn) takes exception to being singled out for a random inspection. His protests are valid, and he eventually wins his case, only to later reveal that it was a necessity that he win because he did indeed have an illicit substance on his person. On the plane, Kumar attempts to light up with his homemade bong, only to be mistaken for a terrorist, and his bong confused for a bomb. The plane is turned around and Homeland Security deputy Ron Fox (Rob Corddry) sends our heroes to Guantanamo Bay, believing they are indicative of a cooperative between North Korea and Al Qaeda. This is where our story starts in earnest.

Our Felix and Oscar like combo find themselves in the Cuba-based detention center, which they promptly escape from. The next step is to find a way back to the States, and once back there they must find a way of clearing their names before Fox can catch them and send them back to a place that they really do not want to be in.

After arriving on the shores of Florida, their attentions turn towards Kumar's ex, Vanessa (Danneel Harris). She is set to marry the politically well-connected Colton, and it is this person that could potentially square them with the law. So, instead of journeying to a White Castle to quench the munchies, they are traveling to Texas to clear their names, and perhaps have a little fun along the way.

Escape from Quantanamo Bay plays out in the expected fashion. It is a road movie where the road segments are conveniently skipped over in order to get to the next skit. So long as the sequences involve gratuitous T&A, weed, goofy one-liners, or Neil Patrick Harris, it works. In other words, take what made the original funny, amp them up a little bit and you have a successful sequel. Add in some George W. jokes and your golden!

The movie does not have high aspirations other than the aspiration to get high. It is better that way. Any attempt to make the humor intelligent would surely have failed. This is a movie that is funny simply for being funny. It is not smart, yet it still has some heart. These guys have a genuine affection for each other and the women that they want in their lives, and it shows through in the script and in the performance. No, it will never be confused for a smart or good comedy, but there is no denying the humor that it contains and the fun that can be had.

Bottomline. Looking for some stupid fun? This definitely fits the bill. It is dumb, it is goofy, and it has Neil Patrick Harris. As far as dumb comediues go, this is one of the better ones to around in awhile. Cho and Penn make a good on screen duo. Now, could a third go around be that far off?



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