April 23, 2008
Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantánamo Bay."American political cinema of the George W Bush era has come to assume a few familiar forms: the documentary indictment (Fahrenheit 9/11, No End in Sight), the sober memorial (World Trade Center, United 93), the angry or earnest Iraq drama (Redacted, Stop-Loss)," writes Dennis Lim in the New York Times. "In this cheerless landscape Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantánamo Bay, the sequel to the 2004 cult favorite Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, creates its own category: the stoner protest film." And he talks with writer-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. Updated through 4/29. "Who would have imagined that movie which begins with its heroes getting racially profiled at an airport, tossed into prison at Guantánamo Bay, threatened with rape at gunpoint by American soldiers (a practice that is depicted as so routine there's even a slang term for it), and questioned by a Homeland Security officer who literally wipes his ass with the Bill of Rights, would also turn out to contain the most sympathetic portrayal of George W Bush of any film in the last eight years?" asks Paul Matwychuk. "Welcome to the topsy-turvy politics of Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay." "Unfortunately, nothing in Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo is funnier than its title," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. It's "a largely mind-numbing experience, but if I hadn't sat through it before seeing Standard Operating Procedure, I don't think I'd have appreciated how much the Abu Ghraib photos owe to dumb-ass frat humor, stupid pet tricks, and YouTube gross-outs." Hurwitz and Schlossberg "boisterously tackle worthy targets like counterproductive counterterrorism efforts, cronyism and brashly ignorant leadership," writes Nicolas Rapold in the L Magazine. "Tucked among the Epic Movie smorgasbord of rotely reversed stereotypes and fan-friendly Neil Patrick Harris escapades are barbs worthy of South Park's heyday." Earlier Hurwitz/Schlossberg interviews: Shirley Halperin (EW) and Dave Itzkoff (Heeb). Updates, 4/24: "A franchise that began as a half-assed, half-baked but quite natural Political Statement shrouded in pot smoke now strives too hard for relevance, and its satire this time around is rendered clunky and clownish," writes Robert Wilonsky in the LA Weekly. "Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay may look like a wild comedy with some political teeth to it, but - a ha! - turns out it's really just dumb," writes Josef Braun in the Vue Weekly. "Real dumb. Okay, dumb with a few inspired little surprises that help wash down the pervading dearth of anything actually funny or clever happening." For the Los Angeles Times, Mark Olsen talks with the writer-directors and the leads. Hurwitz: "When it really comes down to it, our priority at all times is to have a crazy, bonkers, out-there, outrageous, un-PC, insane comedy so you and your friends can go to the theater and have an incredible time. There's nothing that can ruin that kind of movie more than being preachy or having a strong political message. So for us, this film brings up what's going on and helps us all laugh at it. It's a form of therapy." "[W]hile the comedy is as low-brow and outrageous as ever, this new movie actually scores more points off the nation’s paranoid and repressive post-9/11 mindset than all of Hollywood’s hand-wringing war-on-terror dramas put together," writes Alonso Duralde for MSNBC. "It's true that H&K2 tries a little too hard; it's a little too unsubtle in its fervent attempt to both humanize the protagonists and show them, like, growing emotionally and shit, man!" writes Jenni Miller for Premiere. "That said, the scenes from their college days are a-ma-zing, and I can't help but cheer when love interests hook up." And in honor of tomorrow's release of H&K2, at the main site, Craig Phillips presents a list of "10 Sequels That Are Better Than the Original." Updates, 4/26: "[P]recisely because their attitudes are so bluntly hedonistic and apolitical, Harold and Kumar manage to be fairly persuasive when they get around to criticizing the status quo, which the movie has the wit to acknowledge itself as part of," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. Grady Hendrix in the New York Sun: "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is an act of pure genius - not because it's a great film, but because if it does well at the box office, its makers will be hailed as political satirists of the highest order who have provided a much-needed laugh break in the midst of the soul-deadening war on terror. And if it flops, they'll be box-office martyrs, misunderstood and underappreciated by nervous Americans with a case of the 'too soon!' jitters. Either way, they'll get far more respect than they deserve for this timid yuck-fest." "Is it daring to portray Bush as overgrown frat boy drifting through a haze of marijuana smoke - or is it a tip-off that writer-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg actually have a fair bit in common with Bush's cocky disinterest in seriousness and sensitivity?" asks Mark Asch in Stop Smiling. "Probably the latter... Hurwitz and Sclossberg's frattish sensibility is inherently conservative, even when it's lip-servicing progressive sensibilities." "Somebody needed to do a merciless sendup of Homeland Security bullshit, but are Harold and Kumar up to the task?" asks Steven Boone at the House Next Door. "Not quite." "It betrays the spirit of the stoner comedy, which has traditionally been subversive - when it wasn't detailing the love affair between two marginally functional young men and their stash of sweet, sweet herb," argues Slate's Dana Stevens. "Some gags are inspired in their extreme crudeness and toked-up surrealism, and others are simply lazy and base, targeted at the sniggering 14-year-old boys who snuck into the back row of the theater," writes Scott Tobias at the AV Club. "Yet the bad stretches in both [Harold & Kumar] movies are more easily forgiven and forgotten than they would be in other comedies, because John Cho's Harold and Kal Penn's Kumar make such amiable company." Writing in Slant, Nick Schager finds "a slapdash laziness one expects from a stoner, not a stoner comedy." Choire Sicha talks with Neil Patrick Harris for the Los Angeles Times. Leonard Pierce lists five pot movies at ScreenGrab. And finally for now, a moment of brilliance from C Jerry Kutner at Bright Lights After Dark that I'm pointing to from this entry and from Baby Mama's. Update, 4/29: "Dude, Harold and Kumar are back in a new movie, but I gotta warn you: it's a major buzzkill if you're queer or a woman." Marianna Martin in Reverse Shot.
Posted by dwhudson at April 23, 2008 2:49 PM