Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantánamo Bay

In 2004, a bizarre, small-budget film came out that quickly became a cult classic. Following a night in the lives of two teenagers looking for marijuana, “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” made only $18 million in the box office, nearly sealing its fate as a flop. However, once on DVD and pay-per-view, this tiny movie went on to gross over $80 million in home entertainment sales and is now considered to be one of the best, if not weirdest, stoner flicks of all time. So, when the sequel was announced, you can imagine fans’ surprise (who would have guessed that the story wasn’t over?) and skepticism. After having their heroes ride an escaped cheetah, perform impromptu surgery on a bullet-riddled man and hang-glide into the parking lot of White Castle, it’s hard to imagine that writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg would have anything else for Harold and Kumar to do. However, hoping to once again bring in the big bucks, Hurwitz and Schlossberg have finally released “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantánamo Bay.” Mere hours after the events of the first film, Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) are packing their bags to follow Harold’s love all the way to the marijuana capital of the world, Amsterdam. However, after lighting up and taking a hit in the airplane lavatory, Harold and Kumar are labeled as terrorists by an ignorant, racist government official, Ron Fox (Rob Corddry), and sent to Guantánamo Bay. The two friends quickly escape and begin their run from the authorities. While making their way to Texas, Harold and Kumar experience a “bottomless party,” a Klu Klux Klan meeting and some old-fashioned southern hospitality. No matter how you look at it, the “Harold and Kumar” series is weird. It has strange humor and even stranger plot lines, and the acting reflects that. Every character has a quirk and nobody is really “normal.” In a sense, it’s a movie about misfits trying to get by. But the strange characters only add to the fun. Stereotypes are common and self-deprecating humor is everywhere. For example, child star, Neil Patrick Harris, plays a spin-off of himself, and it’s absolutely hilarious. But, what’s even more impressive is that behind each stereotype is a bigger message. Sure, this might seem a little too deep for “Harold and Kumar,” but it does become clear that Hurwitz and Schlossberg had a message beneath all of the silly humor. By putting in so many stereotypes, they’re essentially satirizing ignorance. It’s a nice touch considering most of the movie is just mindless fun. Without it, “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantánamo Bay” would have been pretty pointless. Hurwitz and Schlossberg certainly do have a knack for mixing social commentary with stupid humor. But let’s be truthful; most people will see it just for the laughs. While “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantánamo Bay” is definitely hilarious at times, it doesn’t measure up to its predecessor. The first movie was so strange that everything seemed fresh and funny. Four years’ time has taken a toll on some of the comedy. Parts of the film seem stale and recycled from the previous movie. If you are going to bring back a cult flick, you have to make sure you have something new to bring to the table. Unfortunately, fans of the first “Harold and Kumar” might find themselves under-whelmed. Not enough of the jokes are new to really propel the series forward and, because of that, it loses its momentum. “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantánamo Bay” still has some of the crazy humor and sharp social commentary as the previous film did. But, it just doesn’t compare to “White Castle.” Like most sequels, this one simply falls flat in comparison to the first. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a look. “Escape from Guantánamo Bay” is goofy enough to spend a lazy afternoon watching. Just don’t expect genius. Grade: 3+