A post-9/11 pothead picaresque with a road map borrowed from Borat, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay finds the stoner duo doing just that - escaping - and skewering Bush-era xenophobia, government-military ineptitude, and a melting pot of racial and ethnic stereotypes in the process. Hmm, melting pot - the Korean-American Harold (John Cho) and Indian-American Kumar (Kal Penn), both weed-obsessed, bring new meaning to the term.
Like its fried forerunner, 2004's Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, the crude, lewd Escape offers a mix of nasty toilet jokes and sex gags, but the gratuitous nudity (male and female) and crazy cannabis-ness are there to serve a greater good: to mock social and political hypocrisy, a culture steeped in prejudice and pretense.
So how do doobie brothers Harold and Kumar find themselves in the infamous offshore internment camp, anyway? Easy: Kumar has smuggled pot onto a plane bound for Amsterdam, and he's invented a smokeless bong to inhale it. But when a passenger sees the tubular glass gizmo, and the dark-skinned "foreigner" holding it, she screams terrorist! Sky marshals wrestle Kumar and his buddy - er, accomplice - to the ground. Kumar's explanation - that it's only a bong - doesn't help. Bong, bomb, sounds the same, no?
Al-Qaeda, the KKK, and the Department of Homeland Security all receive a going-over as our heroes manage to get from Gitmo, fleeing to Miami and then on to Alabama (creepy rednecks, menacing blacks) and finally Texas, and a bonding session with a certain sitting president. Rob Corddry is the lunkhead Fed overseeing the manhunt, and Neil Patrick Harris reprises his White Castle role as "Neil Patrick Harris" - finding the boys in the Deep South and chauffeuring them west. Never mind that the former Doogie Howser is so blotto on 'shrooms that he sees magical unicorns out the car window.
Escape from Guantanamo has been written and directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. These learned gentlemen wrote the first Harold & Kumar, but left the directing chores to the man behind Dude, Where's My Car? In the ensuing years they seem to have learned how to say "Action!" and "Cut!" and stars Cho and Penn seem to have heard them.
It's not exactly high art, but it's certainly high.
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay *** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. With John Cho, Kal Penn, Rob Corddry, Daneel Harris and Neil Patrick Harris. Distributed by New Line Cinema/Warner Bros Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 mins.
Parent's guide: R (profanity, drugs, nudity, sex, violence, adult themes)
Playing at: area theaters
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://go.philly.com/onmovies.