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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pilot at the Movies

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

'Harold and Kumar'

There are plenty of bad sequel movies out there, but not often do you find one that requires a force of sheer will to watch it to the end, when you would rather end it all by immersing your skull in the hot popcorn butter vat just to make it go away.

"Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay" actually sounded like it could have been funny. Imagine, the two nerdy stoners from the wacky 2004 cult hit "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" being mistaken for terrorists and imprisoned in the country's controversial high security facility to face the terrors of both inmates and their own government. Sounds like ripe and topical scripting territory.

Unfortunately, all of that funny part takes up about five minutes of the film. Our heroes manage to escape so simply its just plain stupid, so that the bulk of the story can be just them wandering around afterward from one innane situation or another, with no particular storyline at all except Harold's desire to chase some woman he barely knows to Amsterdam, so that the boys can smoke all the weed they want.

The movie is so celebratory of the pothead lifestyle that its probably uncomfortable even to people who do use the drug. It manages to both objectify women, go deep into the gay joke well, and stereotype racial groups - at one point the stars are fleeing from a group of black basketball players instead of driving past, because since they are black they surely all have to be violent gang bangers.

Watching the movie, you long for it to go in some direction - any direction. But it has none of the campy Revenge of the Nerds charm, or any hint of any point or redeeming quality like you might get in something like a "Clerks."

It comes off as your basic fast, cheap and shameless sequel remake, in which the movie poster is about the funniest thing about the film.

Buds Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) are taken to Gitmo after an airline marijuana mishap is confused with a terrorist attack. The two seem to have some ability as actors, it just never gets tested here. The main joke of the ordeal is the guard's forcing the inmates to perform oral sex. That's just too easy. And yeah, it isn't any funnier on film than it sounds.

After they manage to get out, they encounter Ku Klux Klansmen, former "Doogie Howser" child star Neil Patrick Harris and even President Bush as played by a pretty weak imitator - of course, all are druggies.

The anti-hero story disappoints so much because you expect something better, some growth in the characters since the first movie. Instead, they just seem older - old enough to know better. Harold and Kumar cries out for some smart, unique treatment. But all you get is crude, dirty, graphic sophomoric humor with plenty of nudity, profanity and never-ending druggie jokes.

* Rated R, 102 minutes. Our score: Half a star out of five.