The great thing about Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle is that there were no expectations. The news of its secret hilarity spread quietly through whispers and surprised admissions — You know what I saw last night OnDemand that was oddly incredible? It was a time when a Neil Patrick Harris cameo was delightfully random since no one had seen much of him since Doogie Howser and the simple fact of two guys on a quest for greasy sliders was plot enough. Unfortunately, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay doesn't have that luxury. The expectations are high (ha, get it?), and sadly, the movie doesn't live up them. Or maybe I'm just getting old.
The thing is, I'm not the only one getting older. Escape From Guantanamo Bay takes place just hours after their trip to White Castle, but somehow the fact that Kal Penn and John Cho are now both in their 30s and look it adds a kind of sad angle to the whole thing that didn't exist when they were fresh-faced 20 somethings who just loved smoking pot. Elsewhere in their acting careers, they're both heart-throbby and respectable in their own rights, but somehow they seem to be too old to still be playing this game. That's a bit nitpicky, though, and really the least of the movie's problems. To see the rest of my thoughts just read more.
For me, the moment the movie went awry was when they ended up at Guantanamo Bay instead of making it to Amsterdam and getting into a whole heap of trouble there. While I appreciate the notion of a noble quest, it's far too convoluted this time, and Amsterdam is just an afterthought. Speaking of bringing Gitmo into it, it's a perfect example of where this movie fails. Time and time again they go for the most offensive lines — racial, religious, sexual, bathroom-related (lots of that) — for cheap laughs rather than a) actually making relevant political satire and comedy or b) making any jokes that haven't been done a million times before.
That isn't to say there aren't good moments. Neil Patrick Harris once again knocks it out of the park, even though at this point we know that real-life NPH isn't going for the biggest boobs at the whorehouse (not even joking: that's in the movie). Plus, at the heart of the movie there's a sentimental angle — a love story, a mushy poem, perhaps a sign that Harold and Kumar are growing up after all. Maybe this is one of those movies that will get better with viewing No. 2, and I'm sure there are plenty of inebriated people of all ages who will think it's a riot. Seriously, the frat boy sitting next to me was rolling in the aisles. In the meantime though, here's to hoping Harold and Kumar think long and hard about their plan before taking another trip.
To see the trailer and video clips from Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, check out movies.ivillage.com.
Photos courtesy of New Line Cinema