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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay
Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay
New Line // R // July 29, 2008
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted July 28, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

This mediocre sequel to the genuinely funny Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) are planning to go to Amsterdam so that Harold can surprise a girl named Maria (Paula Graces) who he has a serious crush on. The pair cruises through airport security with Kumar narrowly escaping a search and successfully smuggling some weed on board. When he pulls out a smokeless bong and lights up, a paranoid old woman sees him and thinks he's a terrorist. The pair are brought down by a trio of overzealous air marshals and thrown into the Guantanamo Bay prison.

No sooner do they arrive, however, then they make their escape and manage to hitch a ride across the ocean with some Cuban refugees to Miami where they meet up with their friend, Raza Syed (Amir Talai) who is in the middle of hosting a 'bottomless' party (which is exactly what it sounds like). After the party, Raza lends the pair a car and some clothes so that they can drive to Texas where they hope that Colton Graham (Eric Winter), the politically minded fiancé of Kumar's ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Danneel Harris), will be able to help them. Unfortunately for them, the insane Agent Ron Fox of the Department Of Homeland Security is doing his best to bring these two 'terrorists' to justice before they can strike again, completely oblivious to the fact that Harold and Kumar are really nothing more than a pair of slacker/stoner/frat boys. Before it's all over they'll get some help from President George W. Bush (James Adomian), Neil Patrick Harris (as himself), a strange redneck and his sibling bride, and a gang of good natured whores (lead by Beverly D'Angelo) and they'll travel half way across the country.

Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay definitely has its share of laugh out loud moments but they don't come as quickly or as regularly as they did in the duo's first big screen adventure and there are a few spots in the film that drag resulting in some obvious pacing problems. That said, if you dug Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle then you'll appreciate the crass and juvenile sense of humor on display in this sequel even if it is about as low brow as you can get. You know what kind of movie you're getting into when the first scene finds Kumar interrupting Harold in the shower by taking 'the best dump ever' and detailing his bowel movements for Harold (and for us) in a fair bit of detail before commenting on Harold's wang. Yup. It's that kind of film and it's not going to appeal to everyone, particularly the prurient.

The guest appearance from Neil Patrick Harris, in a very self aware role playing Neil Patrick Harris, is one of the film's highlights. It lets Harris show us that although he's happy to acknowledge and maybe even exploit his past as TV's Doogie Howser, M.D. he has grown up... or at least reached adulthood. Harris plays his part with a completely straight face and he does so quite well and anyone who knows him only from that decades old television role will likely get a kick out of his part here. It's fun to see Beverly D'Angelo show up in a bit part as well, though she's rather underused here in an appearance that is only a scant few minutes long. Of course, John Cho and Kal Penn are their usual likeable selves, turning in enjoyable performances as the two leads as the somewhat repressed would be accountant and his slacker/stoner med-school pal.

Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay takes some ballsy political risks by tackling what many Americans consider sensitive issues in considering today's current political climate. The potential to offend is huge with this picture and the writer/director team of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg exploit that potential quite effectively by taking jabs at the current administration and at the president himself. That said, cahones don't always mean laughs or good storytelling and the pacing issues and haphazard nature of the script take their toll on the picture. Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay is certainly worth a look for fans of the kind of crass humor the first film established, but it's far from a modern classic, rather, it's a mildly amusing blip and little more.

The DVD

Video:

New Line's 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is decent even if it is a little soft in some spots. You won't notice any problems with print damage though a couple of scenes are a bit grainer than you might expect for such a recent film. Aside from that, the image shapes up nicely. Skin tones and color reproduction look nice and accurate while black levels stay strong and deep. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts and there's only a slight hint of edge enhancement visible in a couple of scenes.

Sound:

The primary audio track on this disc is an English language Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround Sound mix and it gets the job done here quite well. Most of the film is dialogue driven but during the scenes where the sound effects and the score play a more important part, the rear channels kick in nicely and rather effectively. The performers are always easy enough to understand and the levels are properly balanced throughout. This isn't a particularly surround heavy mix, but when the rear channels do kick in, you definitely notice it. An alternate English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround track is also included as are optional subtitles in English and Spanish (for the feature film only).

Extras:

The first disc in this two disc set starts off with a commentary courtesy of co-writers/co-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg joined here by lead actors Kal Penn and John Cho. This group discussion is a lot of fun as they cover the history of the production, the need for a follow up to the first film, and what it was like working on set. A lot of the same sort of humor that pops up in the film carries over to this commentary as well and at times it goes a little off topic but in general there's a lot of good, scene-specific information in here as well as a lot of goofball humor.

Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are on the second commentary as well, only this time around they're joined by actor James Adomian (the man who played George W. Bush) and the real Harold Lee. There's a fair bit of crossover here between this track and the first track, which makes sense considering that Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are on both commentaries. As such, they tend to get sidetracked easily, and maybe that's for the best. Alongside discussions about shooting on location and about casting the film, Adomian spends a fair bit of time impersonating the president and Lee more or less just chimes in randomly whenever he sees fit. This track just isn't as funny or as interesting as the first one was.

Also on the first disc is an interactive Dude, Change The Movie! option. If you watch the film with this option enabled, it plays out very much like a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' story and allows you to make choices for Harold and Kumar. Depending on what choice you make, you can wind up impacting the film in some pretty interesting ways - a prime example being if you choose not to allow Kumar to light the bong on the plane, an almost entirely different movie will play out! There's a ridiculous amount of alternate footage in here if you dig around for it and this is kind of a fun way to get some replay value out of the film.

Rounding out the options on the first disc are trailers for three other upcoming DVD releases: Run, Fat Boy, Run, Lost Boys: The Tribe, and Semi-Pro, as well as some animated menus and chapter selection sub-menus.

Disc two starts off with a twenty-two minutes featurette entitled Inside The World Of Harold And Kumar that features interviews with most of the key cast and crew from the film, including Neil Patrick Harris, and mixes it up with some pertinent clips and a fair bit of behind the scenes footage. Those involved talk about their specifics tasks on the film and on the set and while there's a decent amount of people interviewed here, it really does little more than to scratch the surface and it plays out as somewhat promotional in nature at times. Regardless, it does have its moments, if you're a Harold and Kumar fanatic you'll likely get something out of it.

Up next is a lengthy selection of eighteen deleted scenes and a bunch of extended bits from scenes that were used in the film. Most of these are too brief to be of much interest and they were likely cut for pacing reasons. There's an amusing bit with Secretary Fox but most of these are just extended takes and random bits of dialogue.

Rounding out the extras on disc two is a two minute fake service announcement from James Adomian as President Bush that is little more than a trailer for the film, trailers and teasers for the feature, and some animated motion menus.

Final Thoughts:

Harold & Kumar Escape From Gauntanamo Bay has its moments but just isn't as funny as its predecessor. There are a few moments of comedy gold in here but they're too few and far between for this one to work as well as the movie that came before it. Established fans of the duo will enjoy it for what it is and the film takes some interesting political risks, but it's simply too long and suffers from a couple of pacing problems. The audio and video are fine and the extras are plentiful, however. Rent it.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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