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Originally published Friday, April 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay": Dude, what's habeas corpus?

Of course "bong" and "bomb" sound alike. Especially if someone with darker skin is talking. That's what lands the two stoner heroes of 2004's...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Movie review 2 stars

"Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay," with John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Rob Corddry. Written and directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. 100 minutes. Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language and drug use. Several theaters.

Of course "bong" and "bomb" sound alike. Especially if someone with darker skin is talking.

That's what lands the two stoner heroes of 2004's well-liked "Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle" in Gitmo, accused of terrorism in a sequel that's not nearly as funny, even though it has the nerve to poke fun at worthy targets.

On a flight to Amsterdam (of course), to pursue the girl of Harold's (John Cho) dreams, Kumar (Kal Penn) tries to hit a homemade bong, and an idiot fed ("Daily Show" grad Rob Corddry) disappears 'em without due process even though the former's clearly Korean and the latter's clearly Indian — not the two nationalities most associated with wanting to blow up Yankee infidels.

They should have added "Quickly" to the title because the boys immediately escape torture (i.e., forced gay sex) and float back to the States for a politically incorrect odyssey that includes a "bottomless" party, Southern inbreds, the KKK and Neil Patrick Harris, their patron saint from the original. The goal: Texas, where Kumar's ex-girlfriend is marrying a highly connected, pot-hating, turtleneck-wearing right-winger who can get them off the hook.

Starting with a bowel movement and masturbation, the humor is more crude and outrageous — with plenty of nudity — than funny (not that those are mutually exclusive). Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who wrote the original, directed as well as wrote this one, which makes you wonder how benevolent an influence the previous director, Danny Leiner, was.

While NPH is funny as a drug-and-sex-obsessed hetero version of himself, Corddry is painfully cartoonish as a moron who wipes with the Bill of Rights.

After all the broad ridicule of the abuses of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act, torture, the loss of habeas corpus and cultural ignorance, here's what's odd: When H&K plop into the company of the man ultimately responsible for their plight, George W. Bush (James Adomian), he's played as a malapropism-spouting dope but basically a decent guy who likes to get high just like they do — and who helps them. It's as if the filmmakers were doing something that impaired their concentration and made them lose focus on something they started.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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