I love a good comedy as much as the next guy, but as a non-pot smoker I was a bit apprehensive to delve into the Harold & Kumar Ultimate Collector’s Edition. Though I’ve always been curious about these films, I wondered just how pot-centric they really are. The new Blu-ray collection isn’t packaged in a giant metal lighter for nothing. But it turns out these movies are pretty funny even for those who choose to remain sober. All you really need to enjoy them is a taste for raunchy, lowbrow humor.
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) clocks in at just 88 minutes and boasts the most threadbare of plots. Harold (John Cho) is an investment banker. His best friend Kumar (Kal Penn) knows enough about medicine to get into the best med school, but simply doesn’t want to. After getting high one night, the pair decides to go to White Castle for burgers. After finding out their local one has closed down, they spend the night trying to reach the next closest location.
That’s about all there is to it, but the gags—mostly of a junky, throwaway nature—come fast and furious. Some work (Neil Patrick Harris’ cameo as an aggressively heterosexual version of himself) and some don’t (Harold and Kumar riding around on a cheetah). The object of Harold’s affection, Maria (Paula Garcés), is introduced here. Though Maria factors into each of the trilogy’s films with increasing importance, here she isn’t given much more to do other than look amazingly gorgeous (something Garcés excels at).
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008) is a rare comedy sequel that expands on the original’s concept and winds up being much funnier in the process. Much like Porky’s II: The Next Day, the second Harold & Kumar ignores the four years that passed between productions. Guantanamo picks up directly where White Castle left off, with our boys heading off to Amsterdam in pursuit of Maria, Harold’s most desired female. Kumar packed a “smokeless” bong that looks a little too much like a bomb and, in short order, air marshals have apprehended them mid-flight. As the title makes plain, not only do they get thrown into Club Gitmo, they manage to break out.
The rest of the overlong (107 minutes!) film finds the fellas trying to evade Homeland Security officials as they attempt to clear their names. Neil Patrick Harris shows up again, even straighter this time as he takes Harold and Kumar to a brothel. George W. Bush (James Adomian) partakes in the zaniness, striking up a friendship with the two stoners. The political humor, though essential soft, adds a more subversive layer that the first one lacked. The gags are still hit and miss overall, but you’ll be hard pressed to not laugh at Kumar’s sexual fantasy that involves fisting a gigantic bag of weed. Fans of T & A will find plenty to love, especially during the “bottomless party” the two friends wind up at.