Wednesday, May 14, 2008

You're not going to believe me, but Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay went over reviewers' heads.

Isn't it funny that Harold and Kumar go to White Castle is a movie about skewering stereotypes, and yet by admitting that I love it, I am likely to fall victim to many of those same stereotypes? I think so. But anyway, I did love Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. And I was therefore psyched for Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, despite the lackluster reviews on RottenTomatoes.com. Many critics were disappointed in the sequel, claiming that it went over the top, tried too hard, and lacked the humor and freshness of the original. Before I saw the movie, this consensus sounded pretty reasonable, since it is a common failure of many sequels.

After having seen it, however, I immediately concluded that the critics had, by and large, missed the point. They went into the theater looking for more of the silly, rambling, easy-going stoner humor that worked so well in the first movie. Instead, they got something more pointed, more satirical, and in my opinion, more intelligent.

Yes, there are some excruciatingly vulgar moments that I really could have done without, particularly if cutting those scenes would have allowed the writers to take their time with the ending. But for every moment that makes you sick, there are plenty to make you laugh and several that make you think. Quite often, you are forced to think about things that you would prefer not to. The satire can be tough to stomach at times. But this type of satire serves an important function in society. It is good for us. And Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is kind enough to give us enough highs (look at that, I made a pun!) to offset the lows. One minute, the protagonists are in the worst situation imaginable, but the next minute, they are smoking joints with George Bush.

I procrastinated for too long before I finally got around to writing this post, and I am not doing the movie justice at all. But I don't really want to review it, anyway. I just want to say that it vastly surpassed my expectations. There is a method to the madness, you just have to give yourself the chance to see it. At the very least, the many clever parallels between the sequel and the original should demonstrate that the movie is not as incoherent as it may at first appear.

If you don't believe me, take a look at Rotten Tomatoes, and make a note of which publications gave the movie a positive review, and which gave it a negative review.

And if you saw the movie, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought!

1 comment:

Ed said...

I definitely agree with you. The critics we're expecting a typical sequel churned out by the studio because the first one made a killing and has a small cult following. Also, in the age of the buddy comedy its too easy to create a new story where the buddies embark on yet another adventure. In their mind the fans get to see the characters they like more and everybody gets richer, fatter and happier even if the story of the sequel is pretty plain.

I think the writers for Harold and Kumar decided that if they were going to make a sequel they wanted to blur the boundaries a bit in between the fart jokes and challenge our current conventions on racial stereotypes and drug policies at the same time. A strong use of satire throughout helps to embed originality in the film through characters like: the government agent who wants to win regardless of everything else, and the gangster style basketball game, where the biggest guy turns out to be an orthodontist trying to help Harold and Kumar fix their car. Their use of satire reminds me the same type of humor from Cheech and Chong and older satires. It was refreshing to see satire used so strongly. I'm really glad they departed from the same old nonsense and used satire to challenge popular cultural perceptions even if only for the sake of a good laugh.