×

Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay

An over-the-top and beyond-PC comedy that infuses party-hearty anarchy with hectoring moral outrage.

With:
Harold - John Cho Kumar - Kal Penn Ron Fox - Rob Corddry Deputy Frye - Jack Conley Dr. Beecher - Roger Bart Neil Patrick Harris - Neil Patrick Harris Vanessa - Danneel Harris Colton - Eric Winter Maria - Paula Garces Raymus - Jon Reep Raylene - Missi Pyle Cyrus - Mark Munoz George W. Bush - James Adomian Sally - Beverly D'Angelo Tits Hemingway - Echo Valley Goldstein - David Krumholtz Rosenberg - Eddie Kaye Thomas

Radical Muslim terrorists, inbred Deep Southerners, Homeland Security xenophobes and President George W. Bush are among the primary targets bruised and battered by the sledgehammering satire of “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay,” an over-the-top and beyond-PC comedy that sometimes deftly, sometimes slapdashedly infuses party-hearty anarchy with hectoring moral outrage. An appreciably more politically charged follow-up to 2004’s “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” (a piddling B.O. performer that nonetheless achieved cult-fave status on DVD), this raucous road-trip laffer, set for an April 25 release, should perform exceptionally well with auds primed by its predecessor.

Whether the pic can attract newcomers to the franchise –and score breakthrough success during its theatrical run — depends on the willingness of the masses to accept a sex-drugs-and-rock-‘n’-roll comedy so jeeringly critical of post-9/11 paranoia and so openly contemptuous of authoritarian excesses by U.S. government agencies charged with waging the war on terror.

Popular on Variety

It’s like “Animal House” meets “Dr. Strangelove” — although, truth be told, it’s highly unlikely even Stanley Kubrick would have dared attempt a scene like the one here in which an insanely overzealous Dept. of Homeland Security chief literally wipes his backside with the Bill of Rights.

Not that the entire pic is a slapsticky, scatological remix of a Keith Olbermann tirade. Indeed, long stretches are simply variations of comic riffs from the first “Harold & Kumar” misadventure. Once again, Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn), pot-toking twentysomethings with drastically dissimilar degrees of ambition, set out on a cross-country quest fueled by their taste for Cannabis. Also once again, the buddies manage to subvert stereotypes (even while playing them for laughs) during close encounters with strangers who range from seriously weird to downright dangerous.

And yes, once again, the boys cross paths with Neil Patrick Harris, who takes unseemly delight in playing himself as a drug-consuming sexaholic who exploits his “Doogie Howser” fame at every opportunity.

The big difference this time is that, instead of seeking a beloved burger joint, Harold and Kumar are on the run because, after being mistaken for terrorists while aboard an Amsterdam-bound plane and getting shipped off to Guantanamo Bay, they miraculously escape and flee to Florida. From there, they must somehow make their way to Texas and seek help from Harold’s politically well-connected former classmate (Eric Winter) — who just happens to be preparing his wedding to Kumar’s former sweetheart (Danneel Harris).

Ron Fox (Rob Corddry), the aforementioned Homeland Security chief with the personal hygiene problems, leads the massive manhunt for the fugitives he assumes represent a link to a new nexus of Al Qaeda and North Korean terrorists. Corddry plays the wild-eyed zealot as a live-action cartoon who unthinkingly offends Jews, blacks and marginally less rabid colleagues (including an increasingly frustrated Roger Bart) in the name of keeping America safe.

In sharp contrast, President Bush comes off as affably easygoing, primarily because James Adomian plays him as a mild-and-hazy guy, much like … well, Harold and Kumar. (It will be interesting to see which of these comic constructs incites the most vehement condemnation from right-wing bloggers and commentators.)

Subtlety isn’t the strong point of this free-wheeling farrago written and directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, scripters of the previous “Harold & Kumar” opus. Most of the gags are almost entirely apolitical, and some of the biggest laughs are generated by brazenly gratuitous nudity, sniggering sexual activity and considerable consumption of illicit drugs, almost all of it with amusing consequences.

A similar what-the-hell attitude permeates the entire pic: While the production values are by no means sloppy, there is little sign anyone involved perceived slickness as a goal worth pursuing.

Here and there, however, the madcap zaniness and frat-house boisterousness are laced with something not unlike righteous rage about racial profiling, extraordinary rendition and government-authorized oppression. Auds will be left feeling that if characters as harmless as Harold and Kumar (engagingly replayed by Cho and Penn) can wind up unfairly imprisoned, even in the context of a broad comedy, something is terribly wrong with the system.

In its own wacky way, “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay” is one of the ballsiest comedies to come out of Hollywood in a long time. No kidding.

Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay

Production: A New Line Cinema release and presentation in association with Mandate Pictures of a Kingsgate Films production. Produced by Greg Shapiro, Nathan Kahane. Executive producers, Joe Drake, Carsten Lorenz, Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener. Co-producers, Nicole Brown, Kelli Konop, Michael Disco, Samuel J. Brown, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg. Directed, written by Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, based on characters created by Hurwitz, Schlossberg.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Daryn Okada; editor, Jeff Freeman; music, George S. Clinton; music supervisor, Season Kent; production designer, Tony Fanning; art director, Kevin Hardison; set decorator, Vera Mills; costume designer, Shawn Holly Cookson; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Richard Schexnayder; assistant director, Bruce Terris; casting, Richard Hicks, David Rubin. Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Spotlight Premieres), March 8, 2008. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 102 MIN.

With: Harold - John Cho Kumar - Kal Penn Ron Fox - Rob Corddry Deputy Frye - Jack Conley Dr. Beecher - Roger Bart Neil Patrick Harris - Neil Patrick Harris Vanessa - Danneel Harris Colton - Eric Winter Maria - Paula Garces Raymus - Jon Reep Raylene - Missi Pyle Cyrus - Mark Munoz George W. Bush - James Adomian Sally - Beverly D'Angelo Tits Hemingway - Echo Valley Goldstein - David Krumholtz Rosenberg - Eddie Kaye Thomas

More Film

  • Nardjes A.

    ‘Invisible Life’s’ Karim Ainouz Drops Trailer for 'Nardjes A.’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    On Feb. 14 last year, Karim Aïnouz arrived in Algeria to trace via the story of his parents the Algerian Revolution which happened 60 years ago – its 1954-62 War of Independence from France. The uprising he very quickly started to shoot, however, was one happening right then, the Revolution of Smiles, whose first street [...]

  • Call of the Wild

    Harrison Ford in 'The Call of the Wild': Film Review

    Dogs, in their rambunctious domesticated way, can lead us overly civilized humans a step or two closer to the natural world. So it’s only fitting that the best dog movies have saluted that unruly canine spirit without a lot of artificial flavoring. Hollywood’s classic dog tales, like “Old Yeller” (1957) or “Lassie Come Home” (1943), [...]

  • Adventures of a Mathematician

    Indie Sales Unveils Trailer For 'Adventures of a Mathematician' (EXCLUSIVE)

    In the run up to Berlin’s European Film Market, Indie Sales has unveiled the trailer for Thor Klein’s “Adventures of a Mathematician” which had its world premiere in Palm Springs. The film tells the inspiring true story of a Polish-Jewish mathematician who got a fellowship at Harvard and went on to join the prestigious Manhattan [...]

  • Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE

    How Internet Backlash Helped 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Avoid Box Office Disaster

    It’s not a stretch to say Universal’s “Cats” and Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” had two of the most polarizing movie trailers in recent memory. Both caught fire online for all the wrong reasons after fans on social media torched the questionable CGI. “Cats,” an adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, used a new science called [...]

  • Neumond Berlin Germany Restaurant

    Berlin Offers Diversity in Restaurant Scene

    Berlin Film Festival attendees have a chance to sample the diverse cuisine of a foodie city. Some of the top pics for a pre-film repast: Adana Grillhaus  A hugely popular Turkish restaurant in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, Adana Grillhaus now has a second location right around the corner. Popular on Variety Manteuffelstr. 86 +49 30 6127790 [...]

  • Mariette Rissenbeek Berlin Film Festival Executive

    Mariette Rissenbeek Faces Challenges as Berlin Festival Executive Director

    Making her debut as the new executive director of the Berlin Film Festival this year, Mariette Rissenbeek is facing some big challenges after taking over management duties at one of the world’s biggest public film fests. Rissenbeek and new artistic director Carlo Chatrian succeed Dieter Kosslick, who left an indelible mark on the fest after [...]

  • my salinger year

    Berlin Festival's New Selection Committee Takes Off

    Berlin’s new seven-member selection committee — four women and three men — comprises the core of new director Carlo Chatrian’s programming staff, which is led Canadian critic Mark Peranson. Peranson was the Locarno Film Festival’s chief of programming when Chatrian headed that Swiss festival. This year, Berlin is opening with “My Salinger Year,” starring Sigourney [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content