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Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008)

New Line Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/29/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie:
Video: 1/2
Audio:
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/27/2008

For the record, let's get something straight: There's a difference between hype and excitement. Hype is something which is created by the company or participants who are behind a product. When we are inundated with billboards or commercials, that is hype. And, granted, hype can lead to excitement. Excitement is a personal feeling which one gets when they are looking forward to an activity or event. I don't remember there being a great deal of hype for Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, but after seeing the trailers, I was excited about seeing the film. But, the movie didn't reveal itself to be the laugh-riot which I had wanted it to be. Thus, I wasn't very excited about Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Would this film be the funny movie which I sought?

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay begins just moments after the conclusion of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. To recap, in that film roommates Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn), go in search of a late night snack at White Castle. The pair are polar opposites. Harold works in finance, is very about his career, and is obsessively neat. Kumar is unemployed and a slob. His father wants him to follow in the family business by going to med-school, but Kumar isn't ready. Despite these differences, both love marijuana and their getting stoned often leads to problems. As the first film ended, Harold had finally gathered the courage to speak to Maria (Paula Garces), a neighbor he admires. He learns that she is going to Amsterdam. So, he and Kumar decide to follow her there.

At the airport, they run into old friends, Vanessa (Danneel Harris) and Colton (Eric Winter), who are now engaged. This saddens Kumar, as he once dated Vanessa. Following this, they board the plane and once in midair, Kumar decides to get high. His bong is mistaken for a bomb and the pair are arrested and interrogated by bizarre Homeland Security agent Ron Fox (Rob Corddry). The two are taken to Guantanamo Bay, and after an uncomfortable moment, they escape. From there, the two scurry across the American south attempting to find someone who can help clear their names. Along the way, they meet many bizarre characters, including one who made a huge splash in the first film.

To follow up on my previous comments, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle wasn't a bad movie, and it did have some funny moments. However, it simply wasn't as funny as I'd hoped it would be. And again, I didn't know what to expect from the sequel. And perhaps it was this open-mindedness which lead me to find a surprisingly funny movie which (in the unrated version, at least) which doesn't hold anything back.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is a silly and broad comedy, and there's no argument about that. But, the movie also presents us with several layers of humor. We get the obvious stoner jokes and some predictable body humor stuff. (The film opens with this.) And there are the expected gross-out things and physical comedy.

But, the movie also moves in some unexpected directions. Even more so than the first movie, there is a message here about the absurdity of racism, and Rob Corddry's insanely racist character brings a level of cleverness to the movie. The movie also pushes the envelope with its scatological humor. While the first film was no kiddy movie, the unrated version of Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay contains some moments which are a combination of shock and dismay and then one finds themselves laughing uncontrollably (and often feeling guilt over this later). Many of these scenes are akin to moments found in Thereís Something About Mary and The Heartbreak Kid. The best comedy comes from surprise and there are a few moments in this movie where we arenít sure where itís going and it arrives at a simultaneously uncomfortable and funny place. And then, of course, we have Neil Patrick Harris. The NPH stole the show in the first film and he takes things even further this time. His scenes are the funniest in the film and if you know about his personal life, they are even funnier.

It would be a severe understatement to say that Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is over-the-top. And yet, despite the fact that all kinds of oddities are thrown at the viewer, the movie doesnít seem to be trying as hard as the first film. (The only true misfire here is a ďcelebrity cameoĒ at the end which is neither convincing or funny.) Perhaps the Harold & Kumar franchise is similar to the super hero films of late, where the first film spends time setting up the characters and the second is free to have more fun. Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is a perversely gross and twisted film at times, but itís also clever and funny, offering laughs and a message as well.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay attempts to say no on DVD courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer reveals an image which is sharp and clear for the most part, showing only a small amount of grain in some shots. However, the video is flat at times and lacks in detail. Also, some shots, such as when the guys are approaching Razaís house, are too bright. That aside, the colors are good, especially brighter tones. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a good track, as the audio really stands out. The stereo effects are prolific, and match the on-screen action well. There is a also a nice amount of bass. The surround effects arenít overwhelming, but they compliment the action nicely.

The Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay DVD contains several extras. The main extra here is the "Dude, Change the Movie!" feature. This is similar to a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. At key scenes, the viewer is given the choice to choose whether the film should follow the path of the unrated version, or take a detour. These changes can be as slight as an alternate version of a scene in the film, to a total change in the film, causing it to suddenly end. Next, we have two AUDIO COMMENTARIES. The first features John Cho, Kal Penn, and Directors/Writers Hayden Schlossberg & Jon Hurwitz. This is a fun commentary, as the four relive the making of the film. While joking non-stop about what we are seeing, they talk about the challenge of making Shreveport, Louisiana look like many different locations. They make many comments about the differences between the rated and unrated versions. The second has Schlossberg & Hurwitz, "The Real Harold Lee" and actor James Adomian. This is a weird commentary, as we have one actor who is only in the film for a short period, and a man who (supposedly) served for the basis of a character. While Schlossberg & Hurwitz make some comments (and appear to try and not repeat anything from the first commentary), they other two participants often stray from the film. "The World of Harold & Kumar" (22 minutes) is a making of, which features comments from the cast & filmmakers and a nice amount of behind-the-scenes footage. The piece looks at the directors, the cast & characters, and some of the key scenes from the movie. Like the film, this segment doesn't hold back on the raunchy stuff. The DVD contains 18 DELETED SCENES which run about 19 minutes. Some of these are simply alternate versions of scenes from the film, while other are extended scenes. There's very little truly new material here. Having said that, there are some funny lines which didn't make the final cut. "Extras" (7 minutes) contains outtakes and alternate versions of scenes. Some of these are so weird that they are funny. "Bush PSA" (2 minutes) is a fake commercial with actor James Adomian. Finally, we have three TRAILERS for the film; the Teaser, the Theatrical Trailer, and a Red Band Trailer.

New Line Home Entertainment has also brought Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay to Blu-ray Disc. The film is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image here looks much better than the DVD. The pictures is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. Gone is the flat look, as the image is vibrant and contains a nice amount of detail. The colors look good here as well. The image doesnít have as much depth as Iíve seen on other Blu-rays, but for a comedy, it looks fine. The Blu-ray offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio track which run at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. However, this track contains a glaring error. While watching the unrated version, these scenes which are effected by the ďDude, Change the Movie!Ē feature (described above), contain a very loud pop from the right rear channel. While watching the movie for the first time, I didnít know what was happening, but after checking out the extras, I realized that the pop came only during those moments which would branch in the other version. This problem is very annoying. (But, I only viewed the disc on one player, so I canít comment on how widespread the issue will be.) Other than that, the track delivers excellent stereo effects and surround sound, and the in-film music delivers thumping bass.

The extras on the Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay Blu-ray Disc are identical to those found on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long