Monday, April 28, 2008

Looking for the buds at the bottom of the baggie

How can one even begin to critically disseminate a film like Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay? People who liked the first film are obviously going to enjoy the return of these two stoner characters and those who missed the first aren't likely to jump on now. The new film, like the first is really just a loose series of encounters strung together by the duos traveling shenanigans. What gave the film it's ballast the first time out was the strong undercurrent of resentment towards modern America's enduring stereotypes and discomfort with the other. To have two Asian protagonists in a mainstream comedy was, and still remains, something of an anomaly. Sure there was plenty of bits of scatological, anatomical and pot humor in the first film but at it's heart is that it's the story of two characters who are fed up being the sidekicks in their own lives.

Of course now Harold and Kumar are a DVD institution and much beloved. How to follow up the first film? Pretty much by more of the same. A series of comedic encounters as the duo fight for freedom. Continuing right after the first film ends Harold (John Cho), now with newfound confidence, is planning to surprise his lady-love in Amsterdam. Along for the ride is Kumar (Kal Penn) who in a decision so dumb it could only produce a modern mainstream comedy, brings a smoke-free bong aboard an international flight. Let's review: a bong... on the plane... to Amsterdam. Isn't that like bringing Mickey Mouse ears to Disney Land? To make matters worse the duo's ethnicity and the bong's resembalnce to an explosive device land the duo in Guantanao Bay. Jokes about "cockmeat sandwiches" (and the hypocrisy over sexuality in military prisons) ensue. The pair quickly escape (on a raft with Cuban immigrants of course) and the mad-dash to Texas for political clemency begins. Cho and Penn maintain solid comedic chemistry and easily fall back into their rhythm.

The world situation has not improved since the first film so the directors/writers John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg have set their sights more directly on Uncle Sam, here embodied by Rob Cordry's loutish moron special agent Ron Fox and a nerdy, nebbishy more compassionate liberal Dr. Beecher played by Sickness Cinema Favorite Roger Bart. The two men make a fun comedy duo as it was fairly amusing to see Cordry so perfectly epitomize the Bush mindset (in one particularly memorable sequenxe he shoves the photo of a young girl in Bart's face saying that in letting the boys go he is raping this girl i.e. America). In fact the film has so many comic bits and keeps them so brief that the misses are inconsequental compared to the number of hits. I'd rather the film had ditched some of the more obvious bits of gratuitous nudity and easy pot and redeneck jokes for more political satire, but that was a battle I was doomed to lose LONG ago.

I've been remiss in mentioning something. What could it be?
Right, that was it. Neil Patrick Harris makes a welcome return to the world of Harold & Kumar as a sort of raging id demi-god. He pulls up to the boys right when they need help in a sports car blasting hip-hop, devouring baggies of mushrooms and chugging a bottle of Jack Daniels with a hankering for whores. When Harris is on-screen the film regains the originals go-anywhere, do-anything energy. Too bad he isn't around for very long (though the faithful would do well to stick around to the end credits). One wonders why Harris isn't around more as his appearance really does give the film a goose at the half-way mark, perhaps we'll get a NPH spin-off film.

1 comment:

Duchess said...

OMG, I want that poster!!! It will hang in a place of honor, positioned between our ketubah and our degrees from Columbia. Actually, on second thought, maybe it should be separate from the degrees from Columbia...the bathroom is no place for an NPH poster.