Errol Morris Lets Torturers Off Easy

Documentarian cuts the Abu Ghraib MPs some slack, while Harold and Kumar escape Gitmo

In its witless way, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo is also founded on epistemological questions. As these two Asian-American stoners (John Cho and Kal Penn) are profiled throughout, so do they consistently profile others. As the resident voice of reason tells the comic villain, a Homeland Security goon who (literally) wipes his butt with the Bill of Rights: "It's people like you who make the world think Americans are stupid!"

Unfortunately, nothing in Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo is funnier than its title. A tiresome succession of scatological gags and rote dick jokes, this sequel to Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle starts promisingly with Kumar busted as a terrorist while attempting to assemble a "smokeless" bong in an airplane toilet. His buddy Harold is innocent but, profiled by Homeland Security as a two-dude axis of evil—"North Korea and Al Qaeda working together"—the pair is shipped off to Gitmo. Their actual incarceration may be brief, but it's fascinating to see that the filmmakers, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, imagine the worst form of torture as sexual humiliation. It's a scenario that would have made perfect sense to Sabrina and the gang.

Ghost of Abu Ghraib
Sony Pictures Classics
Ghost of Abu Ghraib


Standard Operating Procedure
Directed by Errol Morris
Sony Pictures Classics
Opens April 25

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg
New Line
Opens April 25

Escape From Guantanamo Bay is a largely mind-numbing experience, but if I hadn't sat through it before seeing Standard Operating Procedure, I don't think I'd have appreciated how much the Abu Ghraib photos owe to dumb-ass frat humor, stupid pet tricks, and YouTube gross-outs. Despite their aggressive bad taste, Hurwitz and Schlossberg are too nice to introduce Harold and Kumar to Gus or Gilligan. Why so squeamish? After all, the prisoners dehumanized at Abu Ghraib have long since assumed their position in the moral shithole of Bush-era American culture.

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