Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay

Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay

2008, R, 102 min. Directed by Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg. Starring John Cho, Kal Penn, Rob Corddry, Jack Conley, Roger Bart, Neil Patrick Harris, Danneel Harris, Eric Winter.

REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., May 2, 2008

The main problem with controversial gross-out comedies is that it doesn’t take long after one taboo has been scratched off the list for the next one to appear on the horizon. Just ask the producers of American Pie or There’s Something About Mary: Today’s shock cinema quickly becomes tomorrow’s in-flight entertainment, which makes the success of Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay so impressive. Sequels to lowbrow cult-stoner-bathroom-sex comedies aren’t supposed to work; they’re supposed to be dry, lifeless retreads straining to shock. Guantanamo Bay, however, breaks the mold, following in the outlandish footsteps of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle while expanding on its predecessor’s mandate to push the boundaries of racial insensitivity. Once again the lion’s share of the credit for this goes to Penn as Kumar, who is pure, unfiltered, unapologetic id: Come rain, come shine, come political internment, Kumar never stops seeing the world as his own private pleasure dome. Unfortunately for the more straightlaced Harold (a wonderfully deadpan Cho), his friend’s devotion to self-indulgence often leaves them both in a lurch, as it does when Kumar brings a homemade bong on their flight to Amsterdam. A little post-9/11 paranoia and a lot of racial confusion later, and Harold and Kumar are on the run from the now-infamous military prison and setting off on a road trip across the American South to prove their innocence. Along the way, they run into a whole cavalcade of American racial stereotypes, and none of them – not the whites in the KKK, not the blacks playing ghetto basketball, not the Jews coveting a bag full of coins – is safe from mockery. But what truly elevates Guantanamo Bay out of the realm of a typical brainless, harmless stoner comedy is that it saves its most stinging comic attacks for the ultrapatriotic, post-9/11, willfully ignorant American male, personified by federal law-enforcement agent Ron Fox (Corddry). Fox is the portrait of modern-day, topsy-turvy neoconservative logic: Like his heroes in the Bush administration, he’s willing to destroy America in order to save it (in one interrogation scene, he literally wipes himself with the Constitution). In other words, he’s the perfect foil for our heroes, who defuse geopolitical anxiety with post-racial, apolitical lust fulfillment. It’s the triumph of instinct over ideology, and it’s not a little bit brave. Anyone can come up with jokes about incestuous rednecks or pubic hair that “looks like Osama bin Laden’s beard,” but it takes guts to make a comedy in which the Indian-American hero accuses an African-American TSA agent of racial profiling, all so he won’t get caught smuggling weed onto a plane.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Jon Hurwitz Films
American Reunion
Thirteen years after American Pie jump-started sexual innuendo for a new generation, this sequel is the best one in the series.

Marc Savlov, April 6, 2012

More by Josh Rosenblatt
Fighting Stress Through Fighting Sports
Fighting Stress Through Fighting Sports
A Krav Maga devotee on the curative power of punching a bag

Oct. 2, 2020

SXSW Film Review: <i>Bikes vs. Cars</i>
SXSW: Bikes vs. Cars
Swedish doc looks into the war between wheels

March 16, 2015


Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, John Cho, Kal Penn, Rob Corddry, Jack Conley, Roger Bart, Neil Patrick Harris, Danneel Harris, Eric Winter

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle