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Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

dirs: Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg
[img_assist|nid=98|title=Harold and Kumar in Search of Humour|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=354]
Wow, even with two directors this flick is still pretty dumb and unfunny. Maybe it needed some more directors. Maybe five directors would have been the magic number.

It couldn’t have hurt. Such a sequel sounds, from its title, like it’s going to be a ribald, politically pointed satire on the contemporary American milieu and its terror at the prospect of terrorism. What this sequel actually does is limply deliver another film where two alleged stoner friends get into scrapes and shenanigans of a generally crude or sexual variety for 90 or so dull, punishing minutes.

Crude’s fine. I can handle crude. Dumb fun I can handle to, in the right mood. The thing is, even dumb and crude humour needs a bit of wit. Without wit, it’s all just shit.

There is precious little wit and plenty of shit on offer here. It doesn’t make it a supremely painful experience to sit through, kind of like a proctological exam, but it doesn’t make for much fun either.

The real point I could see in the first film, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, was that the people who made Dude, Where’s My Car could make a film as equally stupid yet equally successful, but with non-Anglo Saxon American actors in the lead roles. Which is how we got John Cho and Kal Penn in the Ashton Kutcher / Seann William Scott, Tweedledum and Tweedledumber roles.

And HAKGTWC, for lack of a better acronym, succeeded in its meagre objective. Instead of using the same director again, they’ve elected to use the writers of those films to fill in and shoulder the burden here. Directors are overrated anyway.

Picking up directly where the initial film ended (four years ago), the two geniuses/morons are about to get on a plane to get to stoner Paradise, also known as Amsterdam. In the course of their adventures, they stand accused of terrorism because a smokeless bong (of Kumar’s invention) is mistaken for a bomb.

An over-zealous (and possibly retarded) Homeland Security agent (Rob Corddry) is convinced, despite the abundance of evidence to the contrary, that Harold and Kumar represent the joining of forces between Islamic fundamentalists and North Korea.

When they’re shipped off to the dreaded Camp X-ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, they are confronted with the reality faced by so-called enemy combatants who are incarcerated there.

I don’t think it’s important or necessary to establish a politically objective line about the pros and cons of what goes on in that hallowed place in reality. I think it’s pretty safe to say that everything that happens there is great and wonderful. I’m sure you agree.

But there might be some people, like crazy people who still believe organisations like the Red Cross or Amnesty International speak for the rights of the helpless, who might think what happens there is somewhat dodgy. Somewhat unpleasant. Somewhat, I dunno, torturous.

They might think a comedy like this, whilst not the forum for impassioned cries of tolerance and understanding, would at the very least highlight the bizarre and unjustifiable treatment of many persons whose only crime was pissing off some other goatherder in Afghanistan, who thence turned them in for some bounty money.

Okay, I’ll admit it: I was one of those idiots who thought there might have been a tiny amount of thought put into drafting this misbegotten script. More fool me.

Whatever it is that does or doesn’t happen at Guantanamo is trivialised to the point where what happens to the detainees is that they’re forced to blow the Marines guarding them. The worst of all is Big Bob, the prime deliverer of the so-called “Cockmeat Sandwich”.

Waterboarding, cockmeat sandwich, waterboarding, cockmeat sandwich....

Honestly, I’m not sure which is worse. When a stray tooth allows them to make their escape, they manage to get back to the US in order to travel across the country towards Texas before Kumar’s ex-girlfriend marries some guy who’s close to the current President. Uh, yeah. Only this guy, whose name might have been Chad Winthrop or Tad Worthington for all I know, with perfect teeth and a white sweater knotted over his shoulders can somehow save them from the terrorism charge and from Big Bob’s swollen genitalia.

It’s even dumber than it sounds. Along the way they meet some guy who throws a party whose only purpose is to have the dregs of the Florida porn industry standing around without any underwear on highlighting the areas of their bodies that would have had pubic hair had the pubic hair not been shaved or wrenched off in some unholy manner.

From there it’s hillbillies who are technologically savvy but still inbred, African-Americans who aren’t criminals, drunken Klansmen who relate stories of how they stuck it to a minority during the course of their workaday week, a trip to a whorehouse and a whole host of other unfunny situations and paper-thin characters.

And then there’s Neil Patrick Harris. Neil Patrick Harris, reprising his role from the first of Harold and Kumar’s adventures, plays Neil Patrick Harris. He plays himself in both films, but only in the sense that he plays the actor called Neil Patrick Harris.

Unless of course Neil Patrick Harris does enjoy guzzling down ‘shrooms whilst driving, unless his middle initials do actually stand for “poon handler”, and unless he really does like branding whores on the arse with his initials.

Is he the funniest thing in the movie? I dunno, it’s so overplayed and strange that it really amounts to little more than a stunt cameo. If he is the funniest element in the movie, then it’s more because of the crapness of the rest of the endeavour, rather than the sheer wonderfulness of Neil Patrick Harris.

What that and every other bit of the movie most represent is that these here movies are aimed safely at that demographic, or sub-demographic that makes those Scary Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans a success and a bane upon the rest of the world. I wasn’t expecting much of anything with this film, and I certainly got that.

The primary, fundamental flaw in the flick is that whilst John Cho, as Harold, may actually be capable of engendering laughs in a viewer, he can’t do it that well in these films, because that guy playing Kumar is just not funny. Kal Penn is the anti-matter version of funny. He is anti-funny.

He has no sense of timing or delivery, and coasts through with the comfortably held belief that pretending he’s a stoned retard (even when the character isn’t stoned) is inherently funny in and of itself. For a buddy movie, there’s no dynamic between these two guys, and they seem to be in two different (both bad) movies.

If there are funny moments, they’re rarely because of these two, and they’re few and far between. The scene between Neil Patrick Harris, and the Homeland Security tool who tells him that his performance in Starship Troopers is what made him want to join the government as an agent was pretty funny. Also, against my better judgement, a scene where our two hero morons inadvertently end up smoking dope with President Bush was really funny. I’m also ashamed to admit that Neil Patrick Harris’s antics at the whorehouse, considering that the guy recently came out of the closet, are pretty funny.

The rest is pretty consistently lame. Lazy writing and poor direction mean the movie limps along like a wounded and brain damaged animal. The attempts at contemporary relevance should embarrass the people involved, and the Guantanamo stuff is beyond unfunny. Minimising the human rights abuses that are going on there as fodder for such a brazenly unfunny and unthoughtful flick is low even for the mercenary morons involved.

I probably wouldn’t have cared about even that if it’d been funnier. Funny can justify almost anything. Just ask Roberto Benigni. He made the Holocaust a joy for young and old in Life is Beautiful. But the guys involved in Harold and Kumar Capitalise on Human Rights Abuses in Order to Pack Morons Into Theatres are pretty fucking far from funny.

4 times I wondered if Kal Penn is the least funny person I’ve seen in a comedy since Pauly Shore last reared his ugly head out of 10.

“Did you see that unicorn? Its horn was so shiny...” – Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay.