By Joe Donato
With the subtlety of a sledgehammer, the sequel to Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle attacks racial stereotypes and discrimination. Despite the shit and fart jokes, Escape from Guantanamo Bay offers up some substantial social commentary, though it’s just as quick to toss it all aside in the name of tastelessness.
The movie opens mere moments after the events of the original, with our heroes learning the side effects of eating White Castle and preparing for their trip to Amsterdam to meet up with Harold’s crush Maria. From there, it’s pretty much the same shtick from the last movie: Things don’t work out, and we find the two traveling from set piece to set piece. This time the, movie hits an eleven on the absurdity scale throughout it’s entirety.
Many sequels and long running sitcoms suffer from going too far for the sake of a joke, or turning their characters into caricatures of themselves. The original film was so absurd that it would be hard to betray it, but there was heart underneath the big bags of weed, deformed rednecks and battleshit jokes. Thankfully, whereas last time, we saw Harold grow as a character, this time it’s Kumar’s turn, and while it borders on cheese at times, ultimately Kumar’s quest to reclaim love is pretty heart warming.
What was once subtle pervasive racial commentary is now the crux of nearly every joke in the movie. The movie leaves no stone unturned, and every time it threatens to be racist or sexist, it turns it around in such a brilliantly charming and crude fashion that is hard to hate. There’s a heavy handed anti-racist message here, but given the typical audience these kinds of comedies bring in, it’s nice to see a movie so upfront with its values.
The biggest fault I can pin on the movie (beyond a few sappy moments), is the typical comedy sequel technique of callbacks. While many of the returning favorites, such as Neil Patrick Harris and the big bag of weed, are some of the best gags in the movie, a lot of the new stuff left me teary-eyed. As funny as much of the content in the previews was, they definitely saved the funniest stuff for the theater.
While I think the original was a more solid movie overall, and obviously fresher, Escape from Guantanamo Bay is probably the funniest movie I’ve seen since the last one. Despite my original hesitations about a sequel, I’m definitely not afraid to see the adventures of Harold and Kumar continue in a third movie.