First, we’re moving Movie Monday to Tuesday, thanks to the time needed to write and edit the reviews. We lose the alliteration, but gain quality.
Second, when we started movie reviews, there was a long debate about whether to review R-rated movies. Movies rated R should limit their viewership to those over 17 or, for kids 16 and under, to those who are accompanied by a parent. We eventually decided to review those R-rated movies that were being marketed to or would be of interest to older teenagers–so while we wouldn’t, for example, review “Glory,” we would have reviewed “Superbad.”
Considering there was a group of boys that looked about 13 at the 2:10 show I attended, it seems like we overestimated the age of teenagers that might be interested in “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.”
Note: In the interest of letting parents know the movie’s content in as much detail as possible, plot spoilers follow after the jump.
The sequel to “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” (don’t worry if you missed the first one; this one will still make sense), the escape of the movie’s title actually is over in the first 20 minutes. After being mistaken for terrorists on a flight to Amsterdam (and they’re not going for the Van Gogh museum), Harold Lee and Kumar Patel are sent to Guantanamo. Then they escape. The rest of the movie is a dual quest: to get to Texas and get help from an politically-connected friend, and to stop the wedding of Kumar’s ex-girlfriend to said friend, who’s also kind of a jerk. The Odyssey it isn’t, but the movie’s fast pace and more-often-than-not smart humor make the film surprisingly funny. John Cho’s Harold is the moral center of the film and the steady influence on Kal Penn’s Kumar. That doesn’t mean Harold is perfectly moral; rather than being two sides of the same coin, they’re really the same person–it’s just Harold understands that one should actually get to Amsterdam before smoking pot, rather than bringing it on the plane, which Kumar does (the misunderstanding that sends them to Cuba is because someone hears “bomb” rather than “bong.”) And people assume that Kumar is Arab, when he is of Indian descent.
I don’t pretend to be any sort of prude–I play violent video games and have seen my share of raunchy movies. But even I was shocked that this only received an R rating, rather than the more restrictive NC-17 (in which children are not admitted at all.) And I bet most parents would be shocked as well–the film is clearly marketed to teens, and the commercials on TV make it seem a little naughty.
Reviewers for ChesapeakeFamily.com are told to keep track of curse words, sexual situations and drug and alcohol use. I gave up after the swearing after 15 minutes and the other categories after 30. If you can think of a word, it’s in there. Multiple times. And you’d have to be pretty creative to imagine some of the profanity that shows up. Drug use is frequent, explicit and usually occurs without consequences. In addition to marijuana, there’s cocaine and mushroom use, as well as alcohol. Sexual situations cover pretty much everything one can imagine, including a threesome involving Kumar, his ex-girlfriend, and a giant bag of marijuana. Is it funny? It’s hilarious. Was it appropriate for the 14-year-olds in the audience? I doubt their parents would think so.
There is also full-frontal female nudity, some violence (Neil Patrick Harris gets shot in the back with a shotgun; a KKK member accidentally sets himself on fire), and the worst George W. Bush impersonator in history. I look more like Bush than this guy, and I’m eight months pregnant. Parents with a strong military allegience (and some of those without) may be offended by the portrayal of some members of the military (the guards at Guantanamo [who, weirdly, are Army, even though Guantamo is a Naval base] force prisoners to perform fellatio on them.)
Attempting to write this review without bringing some seriously unsavory Google hits to ChesapeakeFamily.com was tricky; what’s trickier for parents is the marketing campaign for the movie would never suggest to parents how explicit it is. It doesn’t anger me that the movie contains such graphic images or situations–I’m an adult; and, again, the movie is really funny. Having seen the ads, I probably wouldn’t have had a problem with my 15-year-old stepson seeing the film. I would have figured there would have been a few f-words, and Lord knows he probably hears it enough at school. But after seeing it? Not a chance. It’s infuriating that parents have such obstacles when deciding on what’s appropriate for their kids.
So: Funny movie. But, on a “naughty” level, it’s “Porky’s” to the third power. Keep that in mind when your teenager asks to hit the theater this weekend.