Friday, January 23, 2009

Harold and Kumar: Escape from Comedy

Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Tag line: “This time they’re running from the laughs.”

What’s it about, Mike?
Picking up right after going to White Castle, Kumar and Harold take a trip to Amsterdam so Roldy can hook up with Maria the girl of his dreams, but the boys are mistaken for terrorists and sent to Gitmo.

Was it any good, Mike?
No, it wasn’t too good.

The hell, Mike?
Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle had plenty of laughs and even a certain charm. The leads John “Harold” Cho and Kal “Kumar” Penn have chemistry and play off each other well. In the first movie, Harold is the severely uptight one who gives everything 110% except himself – he gets pushed around at his job, and is afraid to even talk to Maria each time he sees her in the elevator at their apartment complex. Kumar is the loose, crazy guy who never applies himself – if he’s not high he’s thinking about getting high. Ying and yang. Peanut butter and jelly.

Harold was the central focus of H&K1 and in the end, he learned to stand up for himself against the douchebags he works with and tells Maria how he felt about her. Kumar, whose doctor father wants him to follow in his suture steps, finally agrees to apply himself and go to an important meeting after learning that playing doctor for real is pretty cool.

Of course along the way to White Castle there was some weed, a weird Jamie Kennedy in the bushes scene, Freakshow the crazy pustulating tow-truck driver, a lascivious Ryan Reynolds in the ER, more weed, boobs, using a cheetah as transportation, a great animated hallucination bit, and rival burger joint employee Anthony Anderson hilariously wanting to “burn this motherfucker down!”. Oh, and some very funny guy named Neil Patrick Harris.

For Escape from Guantanamo Bay, they graft Harold’s pining for love bit onto Kumar who runs into an old college flame who is about to marry a douchbag. So Kumar has poorly thought out storyline and Harold really has NO story in the second film, he’s just along for the ride. H&K1 had all those great cameos. H&K2 is bereft of cool cameos, save for Christopher “Freakshow” Meloni, credited as Rev. Clyde Stanky, popping up as a brain-damaged KKK leader. That’s it. (Of course, NPH returns but I don’t count him as a cameo, rather as a very special guest star.)

But the single biggest mistake is giving so damn much screen time to Rob Corddry’s character of Fox, the overblown, bigmouth, racist, bigoted Homeland Security guy who makes like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive chasing after H&K after they succeed in pulling off the titular event. He is not funny. Not. Funny. Not in the least. I want to know who it is that thinks loud and stupid equals funny. Raise your hand, because I will run over you with my car right now, you dumb melon head. If you want to see this type of character done right, watch old episodes of M*A*S*H with Colonel Flagg. That is funny!

The other huge mistake is what sends the boys to Guantanamo in the first place. On the plane ride to Amsterdam, home of legal weed, Kumar assembles a smokeless bong. The black and glass contraption looks like something Tom Cruise would use on a Mission: Impossible outing. The passengers see Kumar sparking his bong and all hell breaks loose. Now I know this is a stoner comedy – any movie where two characters have sex with a giant bag of weed gets some leeway from me – but what Kumar does is totally out of the bounds of reason. This is a contemporary comedy, post-911. Unless you are a complete and utter brain dead moron you would not bring a giant steel bong onto the plane and try to use it. As much of a weed hound dog as Kumar is, I did not believe he would be so stupid as to jeopardize, well, everything, his life, his freedom, his friendship with Harold, EVERYTHING, so he could smoke a little weed on a plane ride to Amsterdam, HOME OF LEGAL WEED. They could easily have left that bit out and it wouldn't have changed the movie.

H&K2 tried to make a statement about racism, bigotry, racial profiling and stereotypes. Rob Corddry’s jackass of a character was the most blatant example, but there was the old lady on the Amsterdam flight who was nervously eyeing the clean cut Kumar, Ed Helm’s Korean interpreter who doesn’t even recognize English when it’s spoken to him by Harold’s parents. H&K themselves end up stereotyping a group of Black men in Alabama as carjacking thugs when they only wanted to help the stranded boys. This is a pot head comedy - leave the “profound statements” for some other movie.

Neil Patrick Harris deserves special mention for nearly saving the film. He was almost as funny here as he was in the original; they even let him ride a unicorn. But just as soon as he’s in the movie they leave his character behind and the movie gets boring again. Instead of Neil, the boys spend time with George W Bush, who is played by an actor in make up that makes him look more like Andy Griffith meets Alfred E. Newman. Creepy.

This movie as a whole played like piss poor outtakes from the first adventure, a bad sign for returning writers, and first time directors, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. Too much time was spent cutting away to the NOT AT ALL FUNNY Rob Corddry. In H&K1 the boys were pretty much in every scene - they were the movie. In H&K1 I rooted for Harold to stand up for himself and wanted him to get the girl, as I was laughing at all the pot humor and weird sex jokes. In H&K2, Kumar is suck a dick to Harold I didn’t care if he got the girl.

Put the bong down writers and watch some great old comedies, some funny episodes of M*A*S*H and then write another Harold and Kumar adventure. Make sure it’s funny, make sure there is a decent story on which to hang all the pot and sex jokes, make sure it has cool cameos, and make sure NPH returns.

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