Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

I haven’t smoked weed since high school. My drug of choice now comes in a bottle or a can. That said, to this day I get a kick out of stoners and stoner humor (and dick and fart jokes for that matter—I admit it, I maintain the mentality of a stoned thirteen year old boy wolfing down an entire box of Wheat Thins).

Still, upon it’s original theatrical release, I didn’t even give 2004’s Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle a chance. It came and went with little to no impact on my day to day life.

In early 2005 I found my self in Reno, during the worst snow storm since either the mid-1980’s or the early nineteen-teens, depending on who you talked to. All I did for the week I was there was trudge through waist deep snow from my buddy’s record store to the house where a dozen plus random travelers were stranded. We drank a lot of coffee, smoked a lot of cigarettes, played a lot of Trivial Pursuit, and watched a lot of movies.

In conversation it came out that I had never seen the aforementioned film. It was one of those shocked silences where the entire room is aghast, as if I just admitted to stealing babies, and they weren’t sure if they should still speak to me.

The argument that finally made me cave in and agree to watch it was, “Dude, they get stoned, and ride a cheetah.” That sounds like a good time.

In order to rectify the situation, half a dozen of us piled into a borrowed Jeep and ventured to the video store. It was a journey fraught with multiple near death experiences, snow drifts, a 360 degree spin out, hoots, hollers, and a rampant shoplifting jag at the supermarket.

We watched it three times in the next day and a half. Any time someone who hadn’t seen it popped in, we watched it. If you poked your head into the living room, there was a good chance either Point Break or Harold and Kumar was on the television. I bought copy on the way home from the airport.

John Cho and Kal Penn reprise their roles as our bong ripping heroes in Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. The story picks up where the first leaves off, with Kumar taking a moist and massive, White Castle inspired shit, while Harold is in the shower, cleansing himself of the grime of the previous night, and reliving the moment with Maria (Paula Garces), the girl of his dreams from down the hall. It is revealed that they are on their way to Amsterdam to stalk Harold’s recently acquired love interest. En route to their flight, Kumar screams racial profiling, and they run in to his ex, Vanessa (Danneel Harris), who is about to marry the douche bag who landed Harold his shitty ass banking job.

Kumar of course can’t wait the few hours until they get to the weed capital of the world, and all the legal weed they can handle, and smuggles a “smokeless bong” onto the plane. A paranoid old biddy mistakes it for a bomb, screams “Terrorist,” and our boys wind up in Guantanamo Bay, from which they promptly escape before having to chow down on Big Bob’s “cock meat sandwich.” From there it doesn’t really matter what happens, it is an epic quest to clear their names and stop Kumar’s one true love from marrying a complete tool.

The journey bears some passing resemblance to The Odyssey, complete with a Cyclops and an oceanic voyage with Cuban refugees. I can’t do any of the humor justice here without spoiling it, so I’ll just drop some highlights. Civilized rednecks, dog in KKK robes, unicorns, “Starship-fucking-Troopers,” parachuting, and a mathematics based love poem. And there is so much more.

Neil Patrick Harris reprises his role as himself, which all you eager little stoners have been waiting for, and does not disappointed. Rob Corddry plays a homeland security agent hot on their trail, who employs every racist stereotype you can imagine, including, but not limited to, throwing a bag full of pennies at Goldstein and Rosenberg (David Krumholtz and Eddie Kaye Thomas), and dumping out a grape soda in front of an African-American orthodontist.

The film played in March in San Francisco at the Asian-American Film Festival. When I first heard that, I found it really amusing, until I actually thought about it. What else has become such a bona-fide pop culture phenomenon featuring two non-white protagonists? Not much. And while they poke fun at racism in an over the top manner, the truth is, it isn’t far off from the way a whole lot of people in this country think. The entire saga is an interesting cultural artifact, as well as a notable reaction to our national climate.

The friend that I went to visit in Reno three years ago, remarked that some of the humor goes overboard. My reaction was, “Dude, in the first one, they get high, and ride a cheetah.” Yeah, maybe it is not quite as good as the first one. Maybe the hype machine built it up so high that it doesn’t entirely deliver. Maybe it is too absurd at points. But that is exactly the point. And overall, I think it is a fun and admirable addition to the party, one that deserves watching at least a couple of times, both sober, and in your altered mental state of choice.

This movie makes me wish I liked smoking weed, and want to watch Starship Troopers again.

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