STUDIO: New Line
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
• Dude, Change the Movie!
Rob Corddry fights terrorism with poo humor and ethnic slurs.
Smokeless Bong: Man in gas station try to sell me. Latest word in technology.
Kal Penn, John Cho, Rob Corddry
Harold (Cho) and Kumar (Penn), the jovial, marijuana-obsessed college folk from Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, return in the sequel, along with Rob Corddry, Roger Bart, and Neil Patrick Harris. When a seemingly innocuous trip to Amsterdam lands Harold and Kumar in the custody of an overeager Homeland Security bulldog (Corddry), they find themselves facing awful conditions and gruesome male rape at the eponymous Cuban detention facility. They escape (spoiler!) and embark on a cross-country trip to reach the only person who can help them- the wealthy and politically connected fiancé of Kumar’s beloved ex. I predict hijinks!
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First, an observation: Escape from Guantanamo Bay is a completely misleading title. Harold and Kumar spend a grand total of eight minutes in Cuba. This isn’t an escape movie. It’s a weakly written poop-and-ethnic-joke-centric weed fantasy mixed in with half-assed 9/11 commentary. This is a shame, because the blissful pointlessness of the first film worked really well; Guantanamo is a drastic departure from its predecessor, and is little more than a vulgar college romp with boobs and worn out comedy tropes. Sure, there are a handful of fun gags, but one can’t help but wonder how the writer/director duo of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg missed the point so badly.
Guantanamo begins only moments after the conclusion of White Castle with the renewed and refreshed duo boarding a plane to Amsterdam. When Kumar decides to light up with his new “smokeless bong” in the airplane restroom, a nervous passenger catches a glimpse of his device, setting off a catastrophic chain of events for our heroes. This inciting event- the improbable smuggling of an improbable bong on a flight to Amsterdam, no less- is blisteringly difficult to swallow, even in the zany comedy-fantasy world of Harold and Kumar. Since the rest of the film points back to this event in one way or another, it cripples the movie a little. Had subsequent gags made up for the bong event, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it, but the movie just isn’t very funny.
never going to get anything done at these meetings.”
Andy: “Did someone just say ETHNIC SLUR CHARADES?!?”
Unfortunately, Guantanamo‘s humor is predictable stuff. Far too much of it relies on what I’m calling the “weak surprise:” For example, when we’re introduced to a hillbilly hunter in Alabama, we expect to find him living in Deliverance-style squalor, but when he leads Harold and Kumar back to his place, we find that it’s a clean and well-furnished paradise. That’s the joke. Guantanamo relies heavily on this kind of simple twist (hey- let’s do a fractured take on topless parties- BOTTOMLESS parties!) that deliver a chuckle or two, but go on for far too long and don’t provide any other humor beyond the original conceit.
Rob Corddry’s Homeland Security watchdog is amusing, but again, he’s essentially telling the same joke a dozen times. Here, he’s a powerful, racist asshole who’s constantly flaunting absurd ethnic stereotypes to intimidate suspects. In one memorable and funny scene, he bullies a pair of Jewish witnesses by dumping a sack of gold coins on the table in front of them. That’s great, but his character does this no less than three times, which might be two times too many. Still, Corddry has some of the best moments in the film, and he’s responsible for one of the grossest dung gags in recent memory.
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If Guantanamo‘s story is poorly written, it’s at least buoyed by the great chemistry between the leads. Penn’s goofy guy and Cho’s straight man bounce off each other nicely, and it’s still fun to watch two non-white guys anchor a comedy. While the rest of the characters (with the exception of perhaps Neil Patrick Harris) see them as minorities, they’re presented to the audience as everyday Americans without relying on tired ethnic characterization. Sadly, this does not make the movie any funnier, but it’s still a positive.
There are some bits that work. There’s a great jab at the ghetto scene from National Lampoon’s Vacation that makes it seem kinda racist in hindsight, and there’s a Ku Klux Klan party featuring the great Christopher Meloni. Oh, and while Neil Patrick Harris’ inclusion here seems really forced, his final scene makes up for this. Skip the last screenshot if you want to remain unspoiled.
Lastly- Guantanamo is downright flithy with the nudity. The “Bottomless Party” is pretty graphic, and I understand that the R-rated cut was just as raunchy. It’s yet another notable separation point from White Castle.
The transfer looks good, and the sound is a robust Dolby 3/2.1. Bonus features include trailers, multiple commentary tracks, a digital copy of the film, and the truly great “Dude, Change the Movie!” feature, where viewers can alter the course of the film by choosing another “pathway” at several predefined points. For example, during the smokeless bong scene, a pop-up decision marker asks: “Will Kumar use the bong, or put it away?” By selecting “Put it away,” we cut to an alternate (and lengthy) cut of the film with Harold and Kumar making it safely to Amsterdam. It adds a solid forty minutes of new footage, and almost turned me around on the DVD. If you liked Guantanamo in theaters, check out this novel and entertaining feature.
The box art features giant legs, and is forgettable.