Harold and Kumar 2 — An Early Review

Well, Cicatrix and Sandhya have given us much of quality to chew on today with their posts on Love Marriage, so leave it to the English professor to do a review of a gross-out comedy, the much-anticipated (well, by me) Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. The film opens nationwide this coming Friday, 4/25.

My wife and I saw the film for free — thanks to an invite to a press screening/sneak preview in downtown Philadelphia. (I know the serious journalists in the house must cringe every time a blogger gets thought of as equivalent to “press,” but oh well.)

My first thought is — I wouldn’t be surprised if the film opens at #1 in the U.S. box office over the coming weekend. I’ve been seeing quite a number of ads for the film on TV this past week, suggesting that New Line Cinema thinks the film will open big (bigger, anyway, than Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, four years ago. Bigger than Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in Baby Mama? I’m not sure).

As for the film itself, there my response might be a bit more idiosyncratic.

For one thing, I’m probably a little too old for some of these raunchy jokes. Poop jokes I expect and accept. Gratuitous sexual humor involving female (and sometimes male) frontal nudity — also mostly expected. Homophobic prison fellatio humor… er, not so much.

Really, anyone with a brain goes to a film like this for the commentary on race and ethnicity. The script-writers clearly knew that they needed some “serious” material to justify the rest of the film, and here they went back to some of the great material from the first Harold and Kumar, in some cases ramping up the subversive mockery of ethnic stereotypes a couple of notches. The other folks in the movie theater with us tonight — an ethnically mixed, downtown Philly crowd, with significant numbers of Asian Americans and African Americans — seemed to be having a good time. The ethnic humor and the stuff related to Guantanamo certainly seemed to go over well; it was actually some of the raunch that was too gross for this particular crowd…

The best scene in the film involves the Ku Klux Klan, and the best lines in the film actually went to George W. Bush (who makes a surprise cameo!). Some critics are saying the film is less original than the first Harold and Kumar, but I’m not sure that most mainstream audiences, for whom H&K is more of an underground/cult film, will be bothered. Admittedly, those Sepia Mutiny readers who have seen the first Harold and Kumar three or more times might well find this film to be a bit too predictable…

On the other hand, isn’t Homer’s The Odyssey also predictable? The Harold and Kumar films are, generically, mock epics — complete with stock figures standing in for “Penelope” (the earnest girlfriend waiting for the hero/anti-hero to return home), “Sirens” (here, prostitutes in a whorehouse), the “Scylla and Charybdis” of the War on Terror and Illegal immigration, and indeed a “Cyclops” (literally — the film actually has a Cyclops. I’m not joking). Rob Cordry plays the equivalent of the Greek Poseidon. Ithaca is … Jersey City.

(If you think I’m out of my mind to compare Harold and Kumar to The Odyssey, know this — I recently met a woman who had written a chapter of a sophisticated film studies dissertation on “generic subversion in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.” I may be out of my mind, but at least I’m not the only one.)

Do I recommend the film? Well, only to people who don’t mind some really juvenile gross-out humor mixed in with their ethnic subversion. To all of the self-identified “grown-ups” in the room looking for serious engagement with the assault on civil rights stemming from the War on Terror, or the pernicious fall-out from America’s foreign policy blunders … you might be better off renting something boring meaningful, like, say, The Road to Guantanamo. Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, by contrast begins with poop, pubic hair, and masturbation — and that’s just the first 30 seconds or so.

34 thoughts on “Harold and Kumar 2 — An Early Review

  1. I know the serious journalists in the house must cringe every time a blogger gets thought of as equivalent to “press,” but oh well.

    Depends on the blogger. Professors on the other hand … :-)

    For one thing, I’m probably a little too old for some of these raunchy jokes.

    Yeah, me too. And yet I’ll probably sit through it when it comes out on DVD, just because Kal Penn is in it.

  2. I’ve never been a fan of Kal PEnn. But I totally appreciate his contributions to Indo-Americans on film.

  3. “the subversive mockery of ethnic stereotypes”

    er… huh?

    “Really, anyone with a brain goes to a film like this for the commentary on race and ethnicity.”

    yawn

    “The Harold and Kumar films are, generically, mock epics”

    getting sleepy

    “the “Scylla and Charybdis” of the War on Terror and Illegal immigration”

    snore

    “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, by contrast begins with poop, pubic hair, and masturbation and that’s just the first 30 seconds or so.”

    eh, whats that?

    I am like SO there! WOO-HOO!! :D

  4. The best scene in the film involves the Ku Klux Klan… If you think I’m out of my mind to compare Harold and Kumar to The Odyssey…

    No, but a natural question would be how Harold & Kumar relates/compares to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which also featured a one-eyed Klansman equivalent of the Cyclops in the Odyssey, complete down to getting a flaming wooden stick cross in the eye face.

  5. Before there was Obama, there was Kal Penn’s Kumar as a cool, smart brown dude without an accent.

  6. “O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which also featured a one-eyed Klansman equivalent of the Cyclops in the Odyssey”

    in O Brother they credit Homer. they base it on the Odyssey.

    H & K!! Can’t wait!!

  7. 5 · pingpong said

    The best scene in the film involves the Ku Klux Klan… If you think I’m out of my mind to compare Harold and Kumar to The Odyssey…
    No, but a natural question would be how Harold & Kumar relates/compares to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which also featured a one-eyed Klansman equivalent of the Cyclops in the Odyssey, complete down to getting a flaming wooden stick cross in the eye face.

    Who can forget Homer’s vivid description of the scene where Odysseus is about to succumb to the charms of the sirens, but Doogie Howser suddenly comes out of nowhere and rows him to safety, because he is too drugged out to pay attention to the music?

  8. I saw it last night. (Review here.) Despite many, many grossout moments, it is funny. I think it will open at #1, which I guess is fine, but I’m not quite as proud of Kal Penn this time around. Of course, part of doing a sequel is going through the motions, so I don’t really fault him.

  9. I have been anticipating this movie for MONTHS, but i discovered it isn’t as mainstream as i thought it was, not everybody i knw has heard of it, and it’s not even playing in any nearby theatre! I have to go 20 miles away to see this film, i hope it meets my expectations.

    As for the movie being really predictable, i think it’s because of the trailor, it practically gives away the WHOLE story, even the end, they could have at least left the george bush part a surprise. If anyone goes to see this movie, its obviously to get out a good laugh.

  10. Really, they should have opened in Philly just before the election. It would have chalked up at least a whole point for O’bama.

  11. No, but a natural question would be how Harold & Kumar relates/compares to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which also featured a one-eyed Klansman equivalent of the Cyclops in the Odyssey, complete down to getting a flaming wooden stick cross in the eye face.

    Fair enough — here’s my comparison:

    “O Brother, Where Art Thouh?” is a work of art, with powerful, deeply American, visual symbolism, and some of the most memorable and original music used in a film in recent memory.

    “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” is a work of fart.

  12. I’m probably a little too old for some of these raunchy jokes To all of the self-identified “grown-ups” in the room looking for serious engagement

    With the entire week left for acting like a grown up, I guess I am going to enjoy this friday/weekend

  13. Man, your review takes all the fun out of the movie.

    The analysis on this ‘drugs and poop’ movie is a bit extreme.

  14. For one thing, I’m probably a little too old for some of these raunchy jokes…

    Amardeep, Puran is a strapping young man all of three years old, and you think you are already an old man?

  15. It would’ve opened #1 if it came out on 4/20

    cute point. :-) I didnt know about the weed association to 4:20 actually until a few days back.

  16. thanks for the nice succinct review without giving too much away….after seein a coupla previews and the one they showed on conan…well im just gonna say that my expectations are a bit low…and i guess thas a good thing…in the sense that i wont be disappointed as much if i were to go in naively thinkin it HAS to be better than the first….and im hopin that the previews were made esp the way they were jus so that they wouldnt give away all of the funny parts…i hate when movies give all the funny sequences away in the previews…..

  17. Kalpen Modi can finally act.

    In other news Gloria Steinem has finally agreed to [deleted] John McCain.

  18. Amardeep, points for straight-faced succinctness!

    Khoofia, 420 in all its incarnations is a grotesquely overloaded number, connoting (among other things) confidence fraud in South Asia, marijuana in the US, Hitler’s birthday and the Columbine shooting.

  19. 420 in all its incarnations is a grotesquely overloaded number

    419 isn’t that much better… The Waco Siege and the Oklahoma City Bombing.

  20. 17 · khoofia said

    It would’ve opened #1 if it came out on 4/20
    cute point. :-) I didnt know about the weed association to 4:20 actually until a few days back.

    Vhat? Have ju been high this whole time? @=)

  21. Homophobic prison fellatio humor

    how so? I was indoctrinated by the “Safe Zone” crowd back when I was on campus and I detected nothing to set off the finely tuned outrage instruments deployed by the indoctrination crew in that part of the movie.

  22. 9 · Neel Mehta said

    I think it will open at #1, which I guess is fine,

    Sorry to disagree, but this is also the weekend of Baby Mama. I think that’s going to come away with the top Box Office honors. Harold and Kumar vs. Tina Fey? I see Tina coming away victorious.

  23. I liked the first one, it seemed as if it was produced by some Indian or white guy but this one, idk man, its like some neo-nazi is producing it. too blatantly obscene.

  24. I laughed during the movie. But it is hardly a good one. It is as if they sat down and wrote down a number of stereotypes and then decided to make the movie around a few of the stereotypes. Calling his dad Chief, dangling a bag of pennies, Indian who solves calculus but cannot write poetry… too juvenile. First movie was better.

  25. I caught this flick on the day it released. I was a pothead at the time the first movie had come out and I had been waiting eagerly for the sequel. Since then, I have quit my trippy ways and sobered down considerably. I don’t know whether it was the lack of mood enhancers or the effects of great expectations or most likely just a poor screenplay, this movie hardly elicited a few laughs. Amongst other scenes of questionable taste, genitalia, excretory and braindead racial profiling centric humor falls flat at most times. It’s not that I don’t appreciate movies trying to have a subversive streak, in fact, it’s one of the common traits of all my favorite movies. But perhaps a movie which is the logical successor to the Cheech and Chong movies, should remember it’s roots and try not to take itself too seriously. The greatest disappointment of all, the likable asian-american stoners hardly take care of their core competency, and forget to toke. But then again, perhaps it’s just me.

  26. Do I recommend the film? Well, only to people who don’t mind some really juvenile gross-out humor mixed in with their ethnic subversion.

    Well, that’s pretty much everyone I know. I’m sooooooo in!

    Hee. He said “poop.”