Dude, Harold and Kumar are back in a new movie, but I gotta warn you: it’s a major buzzkill if you’re queer or a woman.
The action of Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay picks up mere minutes after the end of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, but in that brief period of time all of the anarchic energy seems to have seeped out of the franchise, perhaps down the drain of the shower where Harold (John Cho) is trying—and failing—to fantasize about his fashion model neighbor, Maria (Paula Garces). But more about Harold’s failure to launch later, because it’s quickly interrupted by a noisy shit gag. Potty humor isn’t new to the H&K franchise, but it’s a dispiriting way to set things off for the sequel to a movie that showed that tasteless comedies don’t necessarily have to be brainless as well.
Though the first H&K installment broke new and provocative ground in 2004—another election year—by inviting minorities into raunchfest roles previously open only to slacker white kids, the sequel, though taking a more daring political stance in the title, loses much of that ground. If the comedic formula of the original was to set up a racial generalization, then bust it wide open, rinse and repeat (all the while slyly suggesting that people could simultaneously be true to some stereotypes while defying others), the sequel has a far more mechanical and unfortunate approach: Set up a stereotype, refute it, reaffirm it, and then throw in a gag at the expense of women or gays to distract from the discomfort of the reaffirmation. If H&K intimated a message of assimilation and inclusiveness for all in the first film, then the second film is a stern reminder that the invitation really only applies to heterosexual men.
Click here to read all of Marianna Martin’s review of Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.