What happened
The movie Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, a sequel to 2004’s Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, opens this weekend and is expected to make a solid run for the top spot at the box office. But some critics are debating whether Harold & Kumar’s outrageous brand of comedy will help or hurt the film.

What the commentators said

The new Harold & Kumar movie is “vulgar, obvious, and not funny,” said Jay Stone in The Vancouver Sun. “In a film that sets out to be offensive, the Guantanamo sequence hits the jackpot.” There we find a “hotbed of comic book Arabs—prisoners with wild eyes and big beards—and sexually predatory guards who force the inmates into sexual submission. This is about as close as the movie comes to political subtext, and it goes beyond unfunny into an area of inappropriateness that’s practically mystical.”

Actually, the movie’s not offensive enough, said Dana Stevens in Slate. “The sequel takes a far more serious subject—racial profiling and the war on terror—and manages to render it completely banal.” Harold and Kumar even have a “warm and fuzzy” scene with the commander in chief: “If smoking pot makes even the guy responsible for Guantanamo into a high-fiving bro, isn’t that an insult to the good name of weed?” Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay “betrays the spirit of the stoner comedy, which has traditionally been subversive.”

“The simple fact that a movie exists with the title Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay is cause for hope,” said A.O. Scott in The New York Times. Or maybe for alarm. In any case, for a few laughs.” Yes, the movie is “fairly cheap and crude.” But in “more significant ways,” it goes “further than most stoner raunch comedies in acknowledging certain realities of contemporary American life.” It also shows that “paranoia is no longer an occasional, bong-induced side effect, but rather standard operating procedure at the highest levels of government.”