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MOVIE REVIEW

They can't escape the first picture

Harold and Kumar's Gitmo adventure isn't as fun or funny as their trip to White Castle.

April 25, 2008|Michael Phillips | Chicago Tribune

Greasy, hazy good fun, 2004's "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" got by on a 4 a.m. mixture of explosive-emission toilet jokes, gratuitous nudity and Neil Patrick Harris as himself. Everything took place in one night, hinging on a single quest rife with detours. Crass? Yes. But there was a merry spirit to it all.

A far more strident sort of crassness pervades "Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay." The sequel picks up and tokes up where the original left off. New Jersey roommates Harold and Kumar set off for Amsterdam so that Harold (John Cho) can chase the woman of his dreams (Paula Garces) while the lads can smoke all the pot they desire. On the plane, Kumar hauls out a homemade bong, which is mistaken for a bomb. Off to Gitmo! Off to the land of tiresome fellatio jokes!

The escape of the title takes about 45 seconds. The rest of the movie, written and directed as lurching, occasionally funny skits by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, keeps H&K one step ahead of a venal Homeland Security chief (Rob Corddry) and Kumar (Kal Penn) on the trail of his ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Danneel Harris). The ex is due to marry a Texas family friend of the George W. Bush clan. Bush himself, portrayed by the world's worst Bush impersonator, shows up late to this fairly draggy party in order to get high with the boys and explain to them, in relative sincerity, that "you don't have to like your government to be a good American. You just have to love your country."

At least one scene rivals anything in the first outing. It's a flashback to H&K's college days, complete with perfect haircuts and pleasingly nostalgic vibe, a memory of when Kumar met the lovely Vanessa. I suppose the whole film couldn't be like this. The rest of the time you find yourself smiling at some of the bits, wincing through many, many others and, ultimately, wondering if the pacing would've improved had either H or K developed a terrible cocaine habit.

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"Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay." MPAA rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language and drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes. In general release.

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