Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay: lol wut

November 24, 2009

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Directed & Written by Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn,
Rob Corddry, Neil Patrick Harris
2008, Warner Bros./New Line/Mandate, 102/107 minutes.

***

Harold and Kumar isn’t brilliant artistic comedy, but it is pretty up-to-date on how it engages in conventional social stereotypes and subverts them to good comic effect. Occasionally basic character elements lag, such as the retarded government official or the villainous white alpha-male with connections. They rely on the typical absurd comic exaggeration (which, par example (yes par example) Rob Corddry is certainly apt for in his role) which normally would work, but the villain character and presentation is often too tired and/or stale to engage anyone but really young or naive stoners viewers. The weed-smoking jokes do work (especially in the beginning) but the whole Amsterdam spiel is played and strangely outdated compared to the rest of the script’s social references.

Where the film shines is in how it flips slapstick/screwball movie cliches to surprise the audience and plays Harold and Kumar’s respectively pathetic romantic fantasies against each other. Some of the scenes are very impressive. But being Hollywood and the world of romantic-comedy (as opposed to tragi-comedy) the story stays in the fantasy realm and never ventures forth into the Beckett-like territory it could have accessed. There’s not too much to spoil, but the real failure of the film is that it did nothing original with the way the plot played itself out in the second act. The original film did this too, but under an appreciable absurd premise of trying to make it to a fast-food joint in the midst of a weekend late-night weed blaze. This time around, since the conditions of the story are already so spectacularly lofty, exaggerated and dumb, the smooth resolution of loose ends is a let-down. I was expecting a clever Wayne’s World or Blazing Saddles sort of twist, with a wink at the audience. Instead we get the exact last 10 minutes of Deuce Bigalowe 2.

Good stuff, even if it is only an aesthetic/social update of Cheech & Chong, Bill & Ted, and other clever stoner duos, for a new commercially viable generation. And they’re making another one, too. Yay!

@ Amazon

@ IMDb

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