I'm a huge fan of the original, a film that managed to deliver outrageous filth and drug humor with a remarkable dose of charm and, dare I say, a certain amount of class. But this time out, the duo just doesn't have it.
The sequel's directorial reins have been taken over by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who wrote the scripts for both films. The writers again came up with a promising array of situations for the hapless title characters (played amusingly by John Cho and Kal Penn). But this time, the crude humor is delivered with all the style of your average American Pie straight-to-DVD P.O.S. What was funny and well-calibrated in the original has become shallow and worthlessly crude here.
The movie picks up where the other left off, with Harold (Cho) taking a shower and reminiscing about his big-screen kiss. His shower fantasy is interrupted by the sounds of Kumar (Penn) expelling the White Castle sliders from his ass in grisly, flatulent fashion. Things basically go downhill from there, including a Kumar jerk-off session that leaves little to the imagination.
The two board a plane to Amsterdam and promptly get into trouble when Kumar tries to light a suspicious-looking bong that is mistaken for a bomb. They are branded terrorists and sent to Guantanamo Bay, where U.S. soldiers are about to treat them to a "cock-meat sandwich." Luckily, they escape this dreadful encounter with man dick and eventually find themselves driving a yellow convertible in the South, destination Texas.
Much of the humor is recycled from the first film, including a dreadful scene in which Kumar has a three-way with the giant marijuana bag from the first movie. My quota for laughing at a big bag of marijuana going down on a guy has been limited to one film, and this makes two. Neil Patrick Harris shows up again, this time hallucinating on 'shrooms and seeing unicorns. Here is an example of a great thing being beaten to death. Just like the giant bag of marijuana, Harris should've been retired gracefully after the first film.
There are moments that rise above the muck. I laughed during a Klan rally ("Dude, the Klan really know how to party!") and a sequence involving an inbred cyclops boy reminiscent of the freak from The Goonies. There is a moment with the cyclops boy that is so perfectly creepy, I found myself angry that it was wasted in a subpar film. Seriously: The moment is scarier than most horror films of recent years.
I also give the film credit for getting right into the face of the U.S. government and not pulling its punches. The film's depictions of Homeland Security agents and George W. Bush took balls. Actually, the dope-smoking George W. is probably one of film's more enjoyable characters, hiding from Dick Cheney and telling off his daddy via the phone. It makes you sort of wish President Bush really was a pot-smoker, presuming he, in fact, is not actually a pot-smoker.
Unfortunately, for every joke that works, there are two clunkers, and the directors can't seem to find that subtle balance that turns obscenity from crude to inspired. While White Castle had me laughing, Guantanamo Bay mostly results in cringes and groans.
Cho and Penn are a fun screen duo, and I wouldn't mind seeing the further adventures of Harold and Kumar. I just don't like seeing such good characters wallowing in trash. Sex, drug and crap jokes can be funny, but it takes a real expert to pull them off with memorable panache. There was no such luck with this one.