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Movie Review

Apparently just hours after eating 30 White Castle hamburgers and a few orders of fries in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, stoner-heroes Harold Lee and Kumar Patel board a plane for Amsterdam where they hope to smoke marijuana semi-legally and hook up with Harold's would-be girlfriend.

Things go to pot quickly (ahem) when Kumar decides to try out his new invention—the smokeless bong—in the airplane lavatory. A passenger panics when she sees what she assumes is a swarthy Middle Eastern man (for the record, Kumar is Indian and studying to be a doctor) setting fire to something. Kumar, feeling rather sheepish, tries to tell nervous passengers that it's "just a bong." They, of course, hear "bomb!" When smoke starts leaking out the device, the all-a-dither passengers assume it's poison gas.

Funny? Not to Harold and Kumar, who are pancaked by sky marshals and interrogated by the freakishly clueless government official Ron Fox.

"Is it freedom o'clock?" Fox sarcastically quizzes Harold when Harold asks for his one phone call. "Where you guys are going, they have never even heard of rights."

That place would be Guantanamo Bay, holding pen for all manner of confirmed and suspected terrorists from around the globe. Harold and Kumar escape from that maximum security facility—see film title for confirmation—and the adventure's just beginning for this pair of potheads. The purple haziness that ensues involves a road trip, ex-girlfriends, evil government agents, Cuban refugees, the KKK, prostitutes, unicorns, George W. Bush, an inbred cyclops, an anthropomorphic bag of weed and, in an encore appearance, Neil Patrick Harris.

Positive Elements

Kumar and Harold aren't just slacker stoners. They're also satirical crusaders (of sorts) who battle racial stereotypes, perceived governmental excesses and hypocrisy. They come to understand how much they appreciate and care for each other, and find that wanton debauchery can't hold an incense-scented candle to finding true love. Kumar even discovers that smoking pot can (gasp!) cause one to make poor decisions. Harold & Kumar 2 is, in some curious fashion, a morality tale.

(Don't run too far or too fast with that, though. Positivity here is routinely annihilated by the fact that the two break at least nine of the 10 Commandments—some of them felonies. Read on.)

Spiritual Content

Neil Patrick Harris saves Harold and Kumar from a band of angry Ku Klux Klansmen. When they ask the former Doogie Howser, M.D. and current How I Met Your Mother star what he's doing in the middle of rural Alabama, he replies, "This is where God took me."

When the cannabis compadres are recaptured, Agent Fox asks them, "Where's your Quran now?" Kumar responds that they're not Muslim. When the credits roll (ahem), the "Gospel Weed Song" by Bizarre plays in the background. It contains such gems as, "I wake up praising God every day/I wanna smoke some weed and roll me the J/Thank ya Jesus!/Thank ya Lord/For lettin' me live another day! Hey! Hey!"

Sexual Content

It's hard to pinpoint, exactly, the most shocking sexual moment in Harold & Kumar 2. Is it when the doobage duo crash a "bottomless party," at which the nether regions of several female attendees and the male host are hanging out in the open? Would it be the graphic (albeit not completely nude) fantasized sexual threesome Kumar has with his girlfriend and an anthropomorphic bag of weed—in which we see Kumar stuff his hand through a mysteriously sexualized orifice in the bag? Or could it be their visit to a Texas brothel, where Kumar convinces two bare-breasted women to kiss each other and Neil Patrick Harris stamps his own freakishly large-chested "date" with a branding iron?

Kumar masturbates and ejaculates (under his bedcovers). There is homosexual oral sex at Guantanamo Bay—and one such act ends with the severing of a critical body appendage. We see pornographic magazines. We see people fondling fake breasts. We see men kissing each other. We visit an incestuous couple. We see that couple's cyclopean progeny in bed with Harold. We hear about sex being dirtied with defecation.

We could go on. We won't.

Violent Content

A terrorist gets electrocuted while trying to scale a fence to escape from Guantanamo. Harold and Kumar proceed to climb over the body and scamper to freedom. Neil Patrick Harris is gunned down by a shotgun-wielding madam; blood gushes from his mouth. Two people fall out of an airplane presumably to their deaths—one firing bullets at Harold and Kumar on the way down.

Harold knees various perceived bad 'uns in the groin. An evil boyfriend is punched unconscious on his wedding day. Guns are brandished. Objects are thrown. Critical body parts are bitten off.

A speckled deer is gunned down as Harold pets it, splattering blood and gore all over the ganja guy.

Crude or Profane Language

Characters use around 125 f-words and more than 50 s-words during the 102-minute movie. They misuse God's and Jesus' names in pretty much every unholy manner possible, unleash the c-word, the n-word and all but exhaust the dictionary of crudities and profanities. Words that aren't dirty, profane or obscene are used occasionally, though, in truth, they are often lumped together in offensive ways.

Drug and Alcohol Content

"Stoner and slacker are usually in the same sentence, but we liked the idea of guys who are motivated," said co-writer and co-director Hayden Schlossberg to Entertainment Weekly. "With the stoners that we write, the fact that they smoke weed isn't a big negative in their lives."

Never mind that the habit gets Harold and Kumar sent to Guantanamo (which for most folks would be a substantial negative). These guys smoke marijuana all the time—by themselves and with many of the people they meet. They even "mellow out" with George W. Bush, who we discover has a secret stash in his Texas ranch. Bush Sr. would get mad if he knew, Dubya explains, as they chill in a lounge filled with both yellow smoke and posters of scantily clad women. But the bong-loving boys convince the president to confront his father over a host of issues, so Bush calls up Bush Sr. and unleashes a profanity-laden diatribe.

Kumar and Harold also get high with the incestuous couple in Alabama, get high on the plane (at least Kumar does) and get high during the closing credits with their girlfriends.

But they are small-time substance abusers compared to Neil Patrick Harris, who drinks beer, guzzles Jack Daniel's whiskey and eats dozens of psychedelic mushrooms (which cause him to hallucinate unicorns)—all while driving.

Kumar's ex-girlfriend takes a toke now and then, though her apparent future husband doesn't approve. He crushes a joint he found in her purse and tells her that if she's stressed she should just snort Zoloft like he does.

Other Negative Elements

Ethnic and racial stereotypes abound. KKK members accidentally urinate on the heads of Harold and Kumar. Agent Fox literally wipes his backside with a page from the Bill of Rights (the Fifth Amendment, specifically), showing the results to the folks he's questioning. We see Harold urinate while on the plane. Kumar and a goat both defecate, the former loudly.


Though Kumar does acknowledge at one point that his slacker, weed-smoking ways may sometimes impair his ability to think and even care about other people as he should, the film makes no effort to say that pot is, in and of itself, bad. It's not the weed that's the problem, we're told, it's the way in which it's used that's the problem. Think of it as a smoky spin on the old "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" argument.

"We try to root the Harold & Kumar movies in some form of perspective on reality without judgments," co-writer and co-director Jon Hurwitz told Entertainment Weekly. "We think there's nothing less funny in a movie than being preachy."

Which may partly explain why Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay isn't particularly funny. Because make no mistake, this film preaches.

In between the f-words, bottomless parties and one-on-one-plus-weed sex, it preaches against real wrongs—particularly against judging folks by how they look or what they do or where they live. (Unless, of course, they live in Alabama, in which case the movie says the stereotypes are probably true.) It scathingly rants against perceived excesses in our government's war on terror: In many ways, it's more venomous, more one-sided and sneakily more effective than some serious war-themed movies released recently.

But it particularly praises the power of pot. When we see the president of the United States smoke it, we're supposed to like him more. When we see someone tear a joint in two, we know he's the bad guy.

"Maybe we're getting to a point where we can actually say, 'It's OK to have a good time, take it easy,'" says John Cho, who plays Harold, to Entertainment Weekly.

And on this point, Harold & Kumar 2 is blatantly evangelical: It presses home the point with the enthusiasm of a wasted used-car salesman, with the fervor of a mellow zealot. Smoking pot makes you less uptight and more lovable, it tells us. It makes us feel better. It can be a salve for what ails you. And if you don't approve of the stuff? Well, you're just a bad, bad person.

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John Cho as Harold Lee; Kal Penn as Kumar Patel; Rob Corddry as Ron Fox; Danneel Harris as Vanessa; Eric Winter as Colton; Neil Patrick Harris as Himself


Jon Hurwitz ( )Hayden Schlossberg ( )


Warner Bros.



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Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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