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Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay: Taking the high road

Like a bag of pot left on your doorstep by a stranger, 2004's Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle seemed to come out of nowhere. It had been a while since we'd had a decent stoner comedy, and this one had the added attraction of smashing our ethnic stereotypes about Asian Americans. Korean American Harold (John Cho) and Indian American Kumar (Kal Penn) had the smarts to climb their way up the meritocratic ladder, but they also had an ineluctable need to get high. And their all-night quest to cop some sliders at the aptly named White Castle, while ostensibly an attack of the munchies, was also an attempt to stake their own claim to American indolence. In this country, you gotta fight for your right to party.

Four years later, the fight continues with Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. It picks up where the last one left off, with our boys on a plane to Amsterdam. Harold hopes to run into that girl he finally found the courage to talk to back in New Jersey. Kumar hopes to take full advantage of Amsterdam's laws regarding the smoking of marijuana. But a misunderstanding involving bongs and bombs lands them at Gitmo, where they're shown the kind of hospitality so thoroughly documented at Abu Ghraib. Here, as elsewhere, the movie seems fraught with gay panic. But there's also a political message in there. You can't miss it when Rob Corddry, as a government agent sworn to uphold the Patriot Act, literally wipes his ass with the Bill of Rights.

Harold and Kumar do manage to escape, and thus begins a cross-country tour of the American South. Various stereotypes are both exploded and exploited, often at the same time. For instance, there's an Alabama redneck whose shack in the woods appears to have been made over by the folks at HGTV but who also keeps a one-eyed inbred in the basement. That's pretty funny, I guess, but what about Harold and Kumar? Don't they have any stereotypes to explode and exploit? Or was that all worked out on the way to White Castle? What was so intriguing about the first movie was that we'd never met a pair of academic-overachiever dope heads before, guys who actually have some brain cells worth destroying.

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