The powers that be, it would appear, get the satirists they deserve. Boss Tweed got Thomas Nast. The cold warriors of the U.S. and the USSR had Stanley Kubrick. And George W. Bush gets Harold and Kumar.
The pot-loving protagonists of the cult hit “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” return in the sequel “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay,” and while the comedy is as low-brow and outrageous as ever, this new movie actually scores more points off the nation’s paranoid and repressive post-9/11 mindset than all of Hollywood’s hand-wringing war-on-terror dramas put together.
Picking up just moments after “White Castle” ended, “Guantanamo Bay” begins with hard-working Harold (John Cho) and slacker Kumar (Kal Penn) packing up to go to Amsterdam, where Harold hopes to catch up to his dream girl and where both men await mounds and mounds of legal marijuana.
Naturally, they get pulled aside by airport security, but Kumar makes a big stink about racial profiling, and they’re let go. It turns out Kumar’s objection to being searched wasn’t about political equality but rather because he wanted to hide his “smokeless bong,” with which he plans to toke up in the airplane bathroom.
He gets caught, and the complicated device looks like an explosive, so air marshals take down our heroes and cart them off to Guantanamo Bay. They’re not there for 10 minutes before a burly guard tries to force them to service him orally, because it’s a law that any movie about jail must immediately include the threat of sodomy. But a well-timed prison uprising lets Harold and Kumar off that particular hook and allows them to break out and eventually return to the United States (as part of a flotilla of Cuban refugees, no less).
Things get crazy, with the leads trying to make their way to Texas, where Kumar’s ex is marrying a jerk with government contacts who might be able to clear the guys. Throw in a “bottomless” pool party, Rob Corddry as an overzealous Homeland Security officer, assorted racists (including a Klansman played by Chris Meloni, who portrayed a similar role in the first movie) and a pot-smoking Commander-in-Chief, and the result is a blissfully anarchic and exceedingly silly movie that tweaks contemporary politics while never being anything but a goofball entertainment.
Of all the nutty supporting characters, however, it’s Neil Patrick Harris — once again playing a cheesy, drug-addled, fame-whore version of himself — who steals the show outright. If movies like “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” were taken remotely seriously by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the artist formerly known as Doogie would find himself up for a best supporting actor Oscar.
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