Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

It’s easy to see how Harold and Kumar, the merry stoners last seen looking for a White Castle, could be mistaken for terrorists. One is Middle-Eastern-looking and one is Korean (North Korean???). They are fanatical and devoted, albeit to marijuana and not religion. And on an airplane, over the roar of the engines, the word “bong” can sound a lot like “bomb.”

That is how our heroes, played by the under-appreciated duo of John Cho and Kal Penn, wind up in the predicament suggested by the title of “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.” The escape happens with in the film’s first 15 minutes, though; the rest is a meandering road trip movie, just like the last one, with Harold and Kumar trying to clear their names and get the NSA off their backs. Like most comedy sequels, it is not as funny as its predecessor — but, like most comedy sequels, that won’t matter too much if you get stoned before you watch it.

Being on the lam is the boys’ foremost concern, but Kumar has an additional problem in that his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa (Danneel Harris), is about to marry a preppy Republican tool named Colton (Eric Winter). Kumar would like to stop the wedding … oh, and he’d also like to use Colton’s wealthy family’s political ties to get him and Harold out of hot water.

Where “White Castle” blended its stoner humor with race-related comedy that was surprisingly trenchant, “Guantanamo Bay” gets even more ambitious by throwing politics into the mix. The NSA is represented by Ron Fox (Rob Corddry), a breathtakingly racist pinhead who personifies the complaints many people have about the NSA and the “war on terror.” He refuses to believe Harold and Kumar when they tell him he’s made a mistake about their being terrorists; after all he can plainly SEE their ethnicities. What more proof does he need? He doggedly pursues the fugitives throughout the film, and his several attempts to get information from people of various minority groups are gloriously politically incorrect, managing to make fun of racial stereotypes while indulging in them, too.

Written and directed by the team of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (who wrote the first film but have never directed before), “Guantanamo Bay” repeats a lot of the gags from “White Castle” (there’s that giant bag of weed again!), and the cameo by Neil Patrick Harris as a badass version of himself is once again the highlight. There are some truly good comic ideas sprinkled throughout the film — the problem is, they’re surrounded by a lot of filler, including some very uninspired road-trip hijinks. (It’s weird to think that the “minorities running into a Klan meeting in the woods” scenario could be an overused comedy cliché, but it sure is.) Then again, the stoner-comedy genre is always hit-and-miss, and how much you miss might depend on how many hits you’ve taken, if you catch my drift.

C+ (1 hr., 35 min.; R, abundant harsh profanity and crude language, and a lot of nudity and sexual dialogue.)