Looking Back: Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (2008)

The marijuana-fueled sequel, “Harold and Kumar Escape From Gunatanamo Bay,” carries on the tradition of late 20th century stoner buddy comedies, starting with Cheech and Chong, up to Bill and Ted (not drug users, but definitely dumb) and Wayne and Garth (whose drug use was presumably off-camera, as there is no way those guys were EVER sober!). Whether you’re against smoking that five-leafed plant and hope it never becomes legal, or have torn out this page of Maui Time and are using it as Mary Jane rolling paper, it can’t be denied that pot comedies can be funny, or, well, just dopey.

This time, Harold and Kumar (played by the fearless John Cho and Kal Penn) are mistakenly accused of being terrorists, sent to Guatanamo Bay, make a daring escape and become highly sought after fugitives.

Sorry to be a buzzkill, but the movie is sometimes uproariously funny, but also dumb and obvious. How vulgar is this movie? Within the first 30 minutes, every bodily fluid imaginable makes an onscreen appearance, one scene is set to a song entitled “My D**k”, and the profanity, nudity and stupidity are almost non-stop. The movie does take the audience off-guard with a series of racial jokes that have unexpected punchlines: ethnic stereotypes are brought up, then ridiculed, in outlandishly inventive ways. The post-9/11 jokes (involving racial profiling, airport hysteria, government paranoia and power abuse) would court bad taste if they weren’t so funny and cleverly satirical. Neil Patrick Harris, playing a twisted version of himself, stole the first movie and does the same here- his scenes are a riot and his speech about how he lost “Taronda,” the love of his life, provides one of the biggest laughs in the movie.

For every joke that kills, like a bizarre nod to “The Goonies,” or when Harold and Kumar meet real terrorists in prison who hate America AND donuts, there are many more that are duds or funny in theory but don’t work. It comes close to being a guilty pleasure, but “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is still the funnier and better comedy currently playing.

Star Rating: ** (1-5 star scale)

-originally published in Maui Time Weekly

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