A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
Director : Todd Strauss-Schulson
Screenplay : Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2011
Stars : Kal Penn (Kumar), John Cho (Harold), Amir Blumenfeld (Adrian), Tom Lennon (Todd), Neil Patrick Harris (Neil Patrick Harris), Danny Trejo (Mr. Perez), Paula Garcés (Maria), Elias Koteas (Sergei Katsov), Jordan Hinson (Mary), Patton Oswalt (Mall Santa), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Rosenberg), David Krumholtz (Goldstein), Bobby Lee (Kenneth Park), Richard Riehle (Santa Claus)
“See you in the fourth,” Neil Patrick Harris winks to Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) about midway through their third absurdist odyssey A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, essentially summarizing just how far we have come since 2004 when Harris (or “NPH” as he is regularly called in the film) came out of literally nowhere to crash the titular duo’s desperate quest to quench their munchies with White Castle sliders. It was, at the time, a brilliant, completely unexpected stroke of comic genius, and it elevated an already hilarious, politically aware satire to a whole new level. However, like the series itself, in its third incarnation Harris’s ridiculously crass, crack-fueled fictional persona is now something of an official institution, and official institutions are always suspect because they are often pointlessly self-perpetuating.
The events in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas take place several years after the events in the last film, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (2008), which was the most overtly political of the series. Returning screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg dial back the sociopolitical dimensions this time around, perhaps because they knew they couldn’t top the second film’s mockery of Homeland Security, the Ku Klux Klan, and even Dubya himself. Instead, they are content to make a few mild stabs at the Occupy Wall Street movement and racial humor (the arrival of Harold’s Hispanic wife’s enormous family, a privileged white teenager mistaking Kumar for a “black guy,” etc.) while keeping most of the film’s gags aimed primarily in the realm of pure absurdity while also trying to follow in the footsteps of Kevin Smith’s Clerks II (2006) by working in a “message” about the true nature of friendship. There is, of course, also the self-aware addition of 3D, which is relentlessly mocked throughout the film in both dialogue (references to 3D TVs as the must-have Christmas present this year) and visuals (ridiculous things coming out of the screen, from marijuana smoke, to egg yolks, to Danny Trejo’s semen). Unfortunately, it all feels a bit hypocritical since everyone but the viewer benefits from the increased ticket price.
At the beginning of the film, longtime buddies Harold and Kumar have not seen each other in almost two years. Without Harold’s superego to take the edge off his id, Kumar has fully descended into a perpetually hash-fueled second childhood. Harold, on the other hand, has fully embraced adulthood, having given up pot, married his long-time crush Maria (Paula Garcés), moved to suburbs, and is now trying to have a baby. Peaceful holiday bliss is not to be his, however, as Kumar arrives to deliver a package that was mistakenly mailed to Harold at their old address. Both Harold and Kumar are now armed with new “friends,” who represent concentrated versions of themselves and are therefore the film’s best argument for why odd couples make the best friendships. Harold is now beset with Todd (Tom Lennon), a white-bread suburban dad who has never heard of the Wu Tang Clan and whose toddler daughter ends up consuming more drugs in the movie than anyone else, while Kumar is saddled with Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld), a stoner-geek with so social skills and pereptual delusions of grandeur.
It isn’t long before they are propelled into another all-night mission, this time to track down a 12-foot Douglas Fir because Kumar accidentally burned down Harold’s frowning, disapproving father-in-law’s (Danny Trejo) beloved Christmas tree. The trip takes them in and around Manhattan, with stops at the penthouse apartment of a vicious Ukrainian gangster (Elias Korteas) and his horny teen daughter (Jordan Hinson), a Catholic church from which Harold envisions a plan to steal one of their trees that manages to lump together virtually every offensive jab at Catholicism imaginable, a drug-fueled Claymation fantasy-turned-nightmare (“Nothing bad ever happens in Claymation!”), and, of course, the dressing room of NPH, who has raised himself from the dead is now headlining a Christmas musical on stage while crudely trying to seduce the dancing girls backstage. NPH’s explanation of his very public gay identity provides some solid laughs, but it is small respite from a film that all feels too familiar and rehashed. Even when Harold accidentally blows Santa Claus himself out of the sky with a shotgun, it ends up feeling like a retread of something we’ve seen before when Kumar pulls out his otherwise underutilized medical skills to stick St. Nick up and save Christmas. Alas, this may be a bong that has been hit one time too many.
Copyright ©2011 James Kendrick
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