Friday, June 13, 2008


Review: Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay
0 stars (out of 5)
by R. Kurt Osenlund

Harold and Kumar go to White Castle - that 2004 screwball comedy that sees two ethnic buddies seek out the elusive fast food joint to cure their munchies – was so absurd and off-the-wall that it actually worked. Lightning doesn't strike twice with this pointless sequel, a film that's so mind-stingingly awful, anyone who isn't as stoned as the lead characters will be furious before it even reaches the halfway point.

To delve into the plot doesn't even seem worth the keystrokes, but here'goes: the movie picks up right where the first one left off, after Harold (the Korean one, played by John Cho) and Kumar (the Indian one, played by Kal Penn) finally got their mini burgers, and returned home safely to New Jersey. This time, they're headed to Amsterdam for a truly uplifting vacation when Kumar's race and carry-on paraphernalia get them mistaken for terrorists and sent to Cuba's Guantanamo Bay prison. They escape, of course, but not undetected, and the senseless plot chronicles their mishaps as national security threats on the run.

To identify the two leads as “the Korean one” and “the Indian one” may sound like some serious racial profiling, but this movie is so rife with stereotypes that I felt the need to be blunt. The first time Kumar makes a post-9/11 joke about his Muslim heritage and appearance, it's funny. But when the bigot detective on the duo's tail repeatedly taunts black witnesses with grape soda and Jewish ones with bags of pennies, the joke gets real old real fast. As does the rest of the humor in this film, which ranges from misogynistic, to homophobic, to racist, to idiotic – sometimes all at once. Unlike the first installment, Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay has no quirky element like the all-but-extinct White Castle restaurants working in its favor. It makes the foolish assumption that Harold and Kumar are revered enough to warrant a sequel in which they basically bumble around the country looking for their next hit, lay, or both. That may be the definition of quality entertainment for a roomful of drunk college dropouts, but not for the general public.

By the time a six foot bag of pot is personified as a sexual being, the embarrassment of simply being an audience member in this movie will have long set in. A number of people at the screening I attended got up and walked out, and had I actually paid for such tasteless garbage, not only would I have done the same, I would've demanded a refund. A complimentary bag of promotional junk was gifted to the viewers who were still around by the end of the premiere. I gladly took it, having felt entitled to a reward after sitting through all 102 minutes. Ideally, I would have preferred a sack of throwing tomatoes before the movie began.

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