Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamao Bay"

Dude! While I have seen Dude, Where's My Car?, I have not caught any of the previous Harold & Kumar films, but I reckoned I had the general idea down. This one features our heroes ending up imprisoned in Guantanamao Bay, after Kumar (the Indian one) is mistaken for a terrorist when smoking a bong on a flight to Amsterdam. Then they escape from Guantanamao Bay and are chased across the USA by a totally square member of the government. The film has a real made-up-as-it-goes-along feel to it, with a lot of the rambling plot suggesting the ingestion of herbal products during the screenwriting process ("Imagine if they got to meet George Bush, and he turned out to be a stoner!" "Dude!"). This maybe makes the film about too rambling to be total comic genius, and for all that there are many totally hilarious moments the whole thing is more chortlesome than roffletastic. Still, the whole thing is very enjoyable.

The whole politics of the film makes for fascinating viewing. For all that this is a comedy about two stoners and their madcap adventures, there is still a fundamental right-on-ness to it all that can lead to curious moments. I mean things like the scene where the badass guy from the government calls Kumar a member of Al-Qaeda (threatening to shit on the Koran for him, or something like that), and Kumar says "Dude, I'm not even Muslim! And even if I was, that wouldn't mean I was a terrorist". And then when Harold and Kumar are imprisoned in Guantanamao Bay, the other inmates they interact with are self-declared jihadists, but ones who get to articulate something that almost hints at a justification for their terrorists activities. Those interested in sexual politics and the construction of male sexuality will be intrigued by the film's depiction of Camp X-Ray as a place where the inmates are routinely subjected to sexual abuse by their guards, with one of the marines berating the inmates for being "faggots" for letting themselves be forced to fellate him, while he continues to see himself as 100% heterosexual. Fascinating.

One thing I was wrong about with this film was having the idea that both Harold & Kumar would be total slackass stoners. In fact Harold is a studious and organised person who maybe enjoys the occasional toke, while Kumar is a bit of a fuckwit who would be baked morning, noon, and night if he got his way. In this respect maybe the film is playing with stereotypes, by having the Korean Harold confirm to being the disciplined East Asian (eh, does this mean that, in the USA, South Asians are typically seen as a bunch of slackers?). The film keeps rolling with stereotyping throughout the film, often having its fun by showing how Harold and (especially) Kumar get riled by ethnic stereotyping but then are quite happy to stereotype others themselves. Ho ho. The film also opened a window into a world of US racial abuse that I found barely comprehensible… can anyone explain why the guy from the government was able to taunt or humiliate an African American guy by pouring a fizzy drink on the ground?

But feh, I fear that I am over analysing this. What I should really be saying about this film is that you should all load up on hashish and watch this film. Maybe we should all do this at the 150th AGM of Frank's APA. That would be freakin' awesome.


Justin Mason said...

'can anyone explain why the guy from the government was able to taunt or humiliate an African American guy by pouring a fizzy drink on the ground?'

I think you need to see the first one. not only is it hilarious, it also establishes a lot of that characterisation -- and yes, the ethnic stereotyping gags are pretty solid in that one too...

Andrew Sherman said...

You think Americans can tell the difference between East and South Asians? I don't.

accentmonkey said...

Sure they can, because they know that one kind is good at math and computers, and the other kind make good doctors.

You should see the first one, Ian. It is slightly tighter, and Kumar's character is slightly better explained, in that his stonerish personality is a pretty clear attempt to rebel against his family's desire to send him to medical school, a destiny that everyone in his family has followed since the family came to America.