They say that familiarity breeds contempt. No wonder sequels suck. Audiences are so ready for more of what made the first movie memorable that by the time part two delivers the repetitive goods, the sameness starts to stink. Four years ago, a couple of dope smoking dudes named Harold and Kumar took a massive case of the munchies and turned it into a New Jersey night from hell. Now they're back for more herb-induced adventures -- and oddly enough, the follow-up isn't as loathsome as it is loony.
When last we left our duo, they were headed to the Chronic capital of the world, Amsterdam. Unfortunately, Kumar (Kel Penn
) cannot wait until they land. Over Harold's (John Cho
) objections, he takes out a high tech bong. Passengers on the plane confuse it with a "bomb" and, before they know it, the guys are headed to Gitmo, labeled as terrorists. Happenstance provides a means of escape, and the boys head to Miami with a bunch of Cuban refugees. Their goal? Get to Texas. There, an old friend with political ambitions (Eric Winter
) may be able to clear their names. Oh, and he's also marrying Kumar's ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Danneel Harris
). Harold knows the couple can help. His buddy, on the other hand, still holds a torch for his former gal pal. As they make their way across country, Feds (Rob Corddry
, Roger Bart
) in hot pursuit, Kumar daydreams of breaking up the impending nuptials. Article continues below
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is one of the weirdest comedies in quite a while. It's a stoner film with limited, pro-PC pot jokes, a political satire where the humor is so frat boy obvious that even Dick Cheney would get it. There's offensive racial stereotyping, blatant bigotry, enough penis gags to send adolescent males into uncontrollable fits of awkward laughter, and a pair of likeable performances that walk the fine line between clever and caricature. Whereas the first film sidestepped narrative in favor of a marijuana-induced string of spleef non-sequiturs, the sequel overloads the screen with far too much plot. Between Harold's dream of going to Amsterdam (to follow his dream babe), Kumar's attempt to thwart his ex-girlfriend's wedding, and the whole War on Terror underpinning, we are knee-deep in story this time. Sadly, the goofy charm of the material suffers.
Still, there is some very good stuff here. John Cho is a joy to watch as our uptight Asian hero. He provides the necessary balance to Kal Penn's frequently flailing, foolhardy Kumar. When they interact -- both pre- and post- puffing -- there's a clever, almost classic comic chemistry. The same can't be said for the staid scenery chewing of FBI agent Corddry. His bald, bureaucratic chrome dome dominating every move he makes, he's a nonstop collection of calculated crassness. He can't enter or leave a scene without embarrassing himself, his country, and the planet he lives on. And Broadway's Bart is wasted in a nothing role.
With original director Danny Leiner gone, writers Jon Hurwitz
and Hayden Schlossberg
step behind the camera for the first time, and they actually do a decent job. Even with filmmaking as scattered and piecemeal as this, they manage to keep everything (except Corddry) from careening wildly out of control. The best moments come via a returning Neil Patrick Harris as a hapless, horndog version of himself, and when a President Bush lookalike (James Adomian) blazes away with his new pardon-seeking buddies. During these slightly surreal scenes, Harold and Kumar Escapes from Guantanamo Bay crackles. At other times, it's the same old smoke out.