Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay

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When a movie literally begins in the toilet, it's pretty hard to go lower. How unfortunate then that this sequel keeps searching for ways to dive even deeper.

The funnier (and fresher) original Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was viewed by some as a comedy breakthrough of sorts with its multicultural stoner duo heralded as a new millennium's Cheech and Chong. The trouble is, those guys were never great to begin with and in only their second flick have hit the kind of absurd lows it took old Tommy and Cheech years of desperation to reach.

It could be that the title locale, for all its cutting-edge state-of-2003 relevance, is a surefire comedy-killer, and no matter how you spin it, racial profiling won't beget gut-busting guffaws.

The bad vibes begin when BFF Jersey grad students — straight-laced Harold Lee (John Cho) and wild card Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) — catch a flight for Amsterdam where Kumar's amazing high-tech "smokeless bong" gets mistaken for a bomb and the boys are mistaken for terrorists. Faster then you can chirp "Dick Cheney," the guys end up in an Army hellhole where a goat drops pellets on their pillows and the sadistic guards enjoy making like Pulp Fiction's gimp.

No matter how funny the words "cock-meat sandwich" are, all giggle value is lost when our heroes are on their knees facing the business end of a savage redneck jailer. Things improve slightly when H&K escape back to America and hit the road home, but the movie spends much time, effort and goodwill recovering from the disastrous opening half hour.

There is some funny stuff here, though, including a ridiculous Klan rally, a hillbilly couple with a shack furnished in IKEA and the return of Neil Patrick Harris, playing a vain, sex-addicted parody of himself. It'd be worth a chuckle when the former Doogie Howser gobbles a fistful of magic mushrooms and sees rainbow-colored visions of unicorns prancing — except the gag played out years ago in better movies.

Ultimately, the constant racial and political commentary never gels with so much happy-go-lucky dude humor. The best political argument here is that we've reached the point where a Korean-American and an Indian-American can star in movies just as stupid as any white guy ... but in a perfect world they wouldn't have to.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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