Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is what stoners call a buzz kill. At least that's what I hear from folks who know about such things.
Four years ago, the hazy, crazy adventures of two potheads on a quest for White Castle junk food was a pleasantly crude surprise. Now there's a mean-spirited sequel that's mostly junk.
Part 1 ended with Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) satisfying their munchies and planning a trip to Amsterdam to find Harold's passing fancy, Maria (Paula Garces). They don't get far. Kumar's insistence on testing his smokeless bong on the airplane gets them arrested as terrorists — because "bong" sounds like "bomb" — and transported to Guantanamo Bay.
Thankfully, they don't stay long, because the prison camp's only joke is that burly soldiers explicitly demand sexual favors from prisoners, making waterboarding sound humane. Harold and Kumar escape and hitch a boat ride with Cuban refugees to Miami, where they seek help from a college classmate whose mansion teems with bottomless women. The classmate is also bottomless — and very hirsute — in a scene that takes the fun out of frontal nudity.
Harold and Kumar borrow a car and take a wrong turn into Alabama, where stale gags ensue about the Ku Klux Klan and in-breeding. When the guys aren't perpetuating racial and cultural stereotypes, that duty falls to a federal agent (Rob Corddry) whose interrogation techniques include wasting grape soda to make an African-American talk and spilling pennies before Jews, who scrape them up when his back is turned.
Ugly stuff, and unfunny.
The movie slightly improves when Kumar tracks down a former flame (Danneel Harris) whose fiance has friends in high government places. Maybe he'll help them out of the jam. The comedy shifts from derogatory to political, with Harold and Kumar parachuting into the Texas White House and sharing their story — plus a lot of marijuana — with President Bush (James Adomian).
That late episode and an encore by Neil Patrick Harris playing an impossibly kinky version of himself are the only times that Escape from Guantanamo Bay rekindles the sick, surreal silliness that made Part 1 so guiltily pleasurable. The rest is just a bad trip.
Read Steve Persall's blog at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.