Like the effects of the marijuana laced with cocaine smoked by a world leader near the end of this movie, the sequel to Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle combines a literally dopey stoner comedy buzz with an electric sting of sharp satire. The first film was surprisingly popular with audiences and even more surprisingly popular with critics, who found that making the main characters minorities in an otherwise unambitious druggie comedy gave the interactions as the two stoned college students stumbled toward the fabled little square burgers a new freshness, even an edgy, satiric quality.
Plus, it had Neil Patrick Harris in a deliciously demonic role as “himself,” a ‘shroomed-out former child star.
Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) depart for Amsterdam, where Harold hopes to see the girl of his dreams (even though he does not know her last name or where she is staying) and Kumar hopes to enjoy legal marijuana. But on the plane, Kumar lights up, using a smokeless bong he invented for the occasion, and a passenger assumes he is a terrorist. “Bong” sounds like “bomb” and he has brown skin. Before you can say “I just wanted to join the other mile high club,” they are cuffed by air marshals and carted off to face a racist, power-mad, pea-brained US government official (Rob Corddry), who orders them put into orange jump suits and shipped to the prison at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay. This ain’t “Law and Order.” No right to a phone call, no lawyer, no passing Go and no collecting $200.
After some ugly encounters with real terrorists in the adjacent cell and sexually predatory guards, Harold and Kumar escape, get back to the US, and take off for Texas, where they hope to get help from a classmate who is conveniently both connected to the top levels of the Department of Defense and about to marry Kumar’s former girlfriend, the one he still loves.
The racial and political barbs are even more pointed this time as just about everyone’s bigotry is exposed. In one of the highlights, Harold and Kumar are taken in by a redneck who looks like an extra from “Deliverance.” He brings them to his broken-down shack and they go inside to find it decorated like a Manhattan co-op apartment, the redneck’s elegant wife at the computer complaining that the DSL line is not working properly. Just as they readjust their expectations, there is another twist. They also have a run-in with the KKK, who think they are Mexicans. No one seems to know or care what their ethnic backgrounds really are. The government interrogator insists on speaking Chinese to Harold’s parents — and insists that they are speaking some strange dialect he cannot understand, despite the fact that they are (1) Korean, (2) are speaking English, and (3) have lived in New Jersey for 40 years.
Cheerfully offensive, cheekily raunchy, happily outrageous, and often just plain disgusting, the movie avoids the usual sophomore slump by ramping up the political jabs while keeping it all unpretentious and moving quickly. We get a bit of a glimpse of Kumar’s backstory — his first girlfriend and his first joint. It is not for everyone; some audiences will consider it so morally bankrupt that they will not be able to enjoy it. But for its audience what makes this one appealing is that like its heroes, this series is growing up.