Harold and Kumar go from seeking fast food munchies to evading geopolitical trouble in Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, an amplification of scale and subject matter that isn’t, alas, accompanied by an upgrade in humor. In this sequel to 2004’s Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, the pothead odd couple winds up in the notorious American prison after Kumar (Kal Penn) attempts to spark a bong during a flight to Amsterdam and, thanks to a panicky old lady who envisions the Indian slacker as a turban-wearing terrorist, gets nabbed by Homeland Security. The duo’s Gitmo stay isn’t long, thereby sparing them from a “cock meat sandwich,” and the two soon find themselves on another loony odyssey, this time through the South to Texas, where Korean-American Harold (John Cho) hopes to enlist the aid of the Republican creep (Eric Winter) about to marry Kumar’s true love Vanessa (Danneel Harris).
Along the way, writer-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (who scripted the original) again attempt to generate South Park-ish hilarity from exploiting and subverting stereotypes. However, their equal-opportunity digs are both inconsistent—Dubya is a surprisingly affable ganja-lover and an African-American thug is actually an orthodontist, while a redneck farmer is predictably into incestuous inbreeding and KKK members are, um, racist—and, worse, so haphazard that the sparse laughs come mainly from the occasional choice wisecrack. Cho and Penn remain an engaging duo, yet here their bickering has a listlessness that’s matched by an easy reliance on raunchy but uninspired fart, poop, and semen jokes. The same holds true for the duo’s re-encounter with Neil Patrick Harris (once more playing a wacked-out version of himself), which, like the rest of their escapades, feels underwritten and barely tethered to the wobbly road-trip narrative.
Guantanamo Bay’s ground zero of shoddiness, however, is Homeland Security villain Ron Fox (Rob Corddry), a moron whose insults to ethnic groups and disrespect for the Bill of Rights (he wipes his ass with it) strive to express the filmmakers’ indignation over the current administration’s war on terror conduct. However, thanks to the character’s broader-than-broad conception, the only thing his xenophobia exhibits—not counting a clever reference to Starship Troopers—is a slapdash laziness one expects from a stoner, not a stoner comedy.