A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that plenty of teens will want to see this marijuana-centric sequel, which goes out of its way to push buttons -- and that the filmmakers don't really worry about when to say when. Expect constant marijuana use, strong language (including "f--k," "p---y," and many more), broadly comic violence, and sexual content -- including both male and female nudity (topless and bottomless). That said, behind all the joking and the toking, there are some nice messages about real friendship, as well as some interesting observations about the racial and ethnic profiling that's taken place since 9-11 and the dangers of excessive law enforcement in the name of safety.
What's the story?
After their successful search for snacks in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Kumar (Kal Penn) and Harold (John Cho) plan a trip to Amsterdam to follow Harold's crush, Maria (Paula Garces), and enjoy marijuana in a legal setting. But when Kumar's bong is mistaken for a bomb on the plane, the two wind up taking a very different trip to a very different destination -- Guantanamo Bay. Once they escape, they must make it to Texas, clear their names, stop Kumar's long-lost love from marrying the wrong man, survive the wild partying of rogue actor Neil Patrick Harris (as himself), and get back to New Jersey safely so they can make it to Amsterdam and reunite Harold and Maria. In short, it's kind of like The Odyssey, only with weed smoking, toilet humor, and gratuitous nudity.
Is it any good?
HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY is an acceptable follow-up to the first film. The jokes aren't quite as consistent as in the original, but Penn and Cho still make for a charming, easy-to-watch odd couple with great timing and real warmth between them. They even wind up making a side trip to Crawford, Tex., where they meet President Bush (played by professional Bush imitator James Adomian), who's depicted as a good guy who likes to unwind with a little weed; when Kumar notes that he doesn't quite trust the government after all he's been through, the president offers: "You don't have to believe in your government to be a good citizen; you just have to believe in your country."
Of course, this pearl of wisdom is spoken through a cloud of exhaled marijuana smoke, but still. And while Harold and Kumar take many side trips in their journey back to safety -- dodging blind justice as personified by Rob Corddry's idiotic special agent as they go -- they're motivated by more than just their affection for weed and the hunt for a good time; they truly care about each other, and they believe in real love. Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay doesn't have the divinely inspired vulgarity of, say, Blazing Saddles, but it throws out so many jokes so fast, with such gleeful dimwit glee, that it's hard to not find something amusing in it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's messages about drugs and drug use. Do you think the movie is an accurate depiction of social attitudes about marijuana? Why or why not? Does it address any of the consequences of drug use? As a comedy, is it expected to? Families can also discuss the racial and ethnic profiling that Harold and Kumar are subjected to. Do you think that happens in everyday life? How does the media undermine and/or reinforce those kinds of assumptions and stereotypes?
- In theaters: April 24, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: July 28, 2008
- Cast: John Cho, Kal Penn, Rob Corddry
- Directors: Hayden Schlossberg, Jon Hurwitz
- Studio: Screen Gems
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language and drug use.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.