Review: ‘Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay’

Looking for love just doesn’t seem as satisfying as satisfying the munchies.

When last we left our stoner heroes, Harold (John Cho) had finally revealed his obsession for Maria (Paula Garcés) and was leaving with his buddy Kumar (Kal Penn) for Amsterdam to catch up with her. Unfortunately for them, a case of mistaken paranoia lands the pair in Guantanamo Bay under suspicion of terrorism. When an opportunity to escape reveals itself, Harold and Kumar must outwit a racist Homeland Security agent to reach an old acquaintance who just happens to marrying Kumar’s old flame. Let the wackiness ensue?

The zany hit-and-miss originality of the first film is gone, inexplicably replaced with actual (if over-the-top) life-altering decisions and danger. Before, it was about two high guys trying to satisfy the munchies, now they’re wanted fugitives? With the plot less self-motivated, the film seems to take a while before we get to the funny stuff peppered with random nudity and forced racist satires. The story (as if it were necessary) finally stumbles into familiar, happy-stoner territory briefly before it gets heavy handed again. As a whole, it’s enjoyable enough to watch but mostly makes you want to go back and see the original again.

Both Cho and Penn have their characters nailed down while David Krumholtz and Eddie Kaye Thomas could have phoned their appearance in. Most of the secondary roles also seem to fall flat, from Beverly D’Angelo as a Texas whorehouse madam to Missi Pyle as a redneck’s wife. Neil Patrick Harris graciously returns to reprise his as-himself cameo from the first one as does “Law & Order: SVU” actor Christopher Meloni in a different role (but still retaining that unmistakable “Freakshow” voice). Our heroes’ ladies, sadly, barely register as more than prizes to be won.

Rumors have already begun to circulate concerning a third film, but if this is all they could come up with for a sequel, maybe this is a good place to quit. What’s next? “Harold & Kumar Do America” or “Harold & Kumar Go to Hell”? If this idea does come again, why not return to the roots of the original? Lose the loves-of-their-lives and set them on a self-indulgent road trip with a stupid goal. Who knows? In four years (assuming the characters are allowed to age the actual eight years since the original), maybe the guys will be ready to ditch the wife and/or kids for a weekend and re-enact City Slickers. Enjoy the movie for what it is: a very long epilogue to much more enduring stoner comedy.

(a two skull recommendation out of four)

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