Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas - Theatrical Review

IN 3D!

Release Date: November 4, 2011

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle came out of nowhere and ended up being a great little stoner comedy, something this new generation was lacking. Yet I was still not looking forward to another Harold & Kumar movie after the dismal Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, everything that first movie did right the sequel did wrong. But it turns out the third times the charm for this dopey duo and their wacky adventures because its beginning to look a lot like fun once again! 

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: Arclight Pasadena
Time: 7:30 pm November 4, 2011
Projector Type: Digital 3D

Loves: The first Harold & Kumar movie, NPH
Likes: Smart dumb movies
Neutral: Stoner comedies
Hates: The second Harold & Kumar movie
NPH: Neil's Pretty Horny

The last time we saw Harold and Kumar they were the victims of profiling and labeled as suspected terrorists. The second Harold and Kumar movie ceased being about silly gags and ridiculous situations, it tried to impose upon us a message about racial profiling (something the first film already did in a much more streamlined and humorous fashion). That's not what I wanted out of a sequel to that first film, I just wanted to see these two guys go on more crazy adventures as they continued to get stoned out of their minds. I will never forgive that second film for wasting the opportunity of placing these two guys in the weed capital of the world. So when news came of a third film I wasn't quite as excited as I was before, the scars from the sequel were still there and the fact that they were pushing the 3D aspect pretty heavily (I'm not a huge fan of the format) wasn't very reassuring either. The one thing it had going for it though was its theme, placing it during the holidays was the perfect (if a little uninspired) next step for these guys. I love the Christmas season, I love goofy comedies and most of all I actually loved almost every single minute I spent with this movie.

A number of years have passed since we last saw Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn). Both friends have gone down their own paths however and haven't seen each other in a good long time. Harold is living the dream with his beautiful (and ovulating) wife Maria (Paula Garces), a great job and the perfect family home. Kumar meanwhile is still hitting the bong pretty hard and living in the pairs old apartment all by himself which isn't in very good shape. As Harold is preparing the perfect Christmas for Maria's visiting father (Danny Trejo) and the rest of her family, Kumar finds a mysterious package left at his doorstep with Harold's name on it. Kumar decides to take the package over to Harold's and just like clock work, as soon as the two of them are together again all sorts of crazy events take place that leads them on an adventure filled with sleigh bells and drugs that will test the everlasting bonds of friendship as well as the boundaries of reality.

Harold and Kumar are back and better than ever.

This movie is just ridiculous and extremely crude, but that shouldn't come as a surprise to any fans of the previous films. The Harold and Kumar movies thrive on the absurd and serve up crudeness on a silver platter complete with plenty of racial stereotyping on the side. Expect to see waffle making robots, Santa taking a hit off a bong, babies addicted to crack, lesbian nuns,  Jesus Christ throwing a 90's style rave, two guys pulling an Eiffel Tower on an underage girl and a giant claymated schlong. Suffice it to say that if you take any issue with the fact that those things and more are the target for most of the films jokes then perhaps this movie (as well as the two previous films) are not meant for you.

The holiday trappings will understandably mislead many people but it is important to remember that this is a stoner comedy first and a Christmas movie a distant second. That being said though I couldn't help but be surprisingly caught off guard with how well the film mixed in all the holiday season traditions with its crass humor. Just the simple idea of having Harold and Kumar scouring the city Christmas Eve night looking for a Christmas tree is completely silly yet also in keeping with what makes a good Christmas movie. Iconic holiday imagery is all over the place but slightly skewed just enough that it feels comforting and fresh at the same time. There is even a very small scene where Harold and Kumar are transformed into actual stop motion animated characters ala the old Rankin and Bass holiday classics that is not only done well but also stays true to the lunacy that often accompanies these movies.

Harold and Kumar react to drugs in very strange and hysterical ways.

There isn't much to say about the two lead actors at this point, they pretty much own these roles and the chemistry between both Cho and Penn only grows with each new film they are in together. If you liked them in the previous films then chances are you will feel right at home once they are reunited. I actually liked how the film started out with the two of them separated, it not only made sense given the direction their lives were headed in the last film but it is also something that any pair of life long friends can identify with. This set up also provides the perfect opportunity to introduce some new characters into the mix as well.

During their time apart Harold and Kumar have acquired some new friends as replacements for each other. Harold has befriended Todd (Thomas Lennon), your everyday and highly stereotypical white guy who comes bundled with his baby girl. Kumar's new smoke out buddy Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld) is your average stoner who only stops thinking about getting high when he thinks about getting laid. Both Todd and Adrian complemented Harold and Kumar fairly well while also getting their small moments to shine here and there. I also really liked how the pairing of Harold with Todd and Kumar with Adrian is in complete contrast to the pairing of Harold and Kumar. The mix and matching with these two pairs worked much better than I ever thought it would and the film knows just when the audience is ready to ditch Todd and Adrian because when it happened and how it was handled was perfect.

Babies react to drugs in strange and hysterical ways as well.

The only other real major new addition to the cast is Danny Trejo as Maria's father. It seems like the older that guy gets the more intimidating he becomes. His casting was to put it bluntly, inspired. He doesn't have much screen time and is used mostly as a device to motivate Harold but he definitely made a lasting impression (love the flashback about his ruined Christmas as well).  There are some familiar faces that show up again as well, Maria is now married to Harold and is given one of the most memorable lines in the whole film. Rosenberg (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Goldstein (David Krumholtz) make a brief but very welcome cameo along with a great call back to the original film. But lets get serious here, there is only one guy that anyone truly cares about when we talk about a Harold and Kumar movie...and that is NPH.

Neil Patrick Harris has taken over the Harold and Kumar movies for all intents and purposes. At this point he is probably the most recognizable face associated with the franchise beyond the two title characters. I wouldn't be surprised in the least when the next Harold and Kumar movie comes out if his name is finally added into the title. From the way the film explains how he cheated death after being shot in the back at a whore house to his new scheme on how to pick up chicks (Girlfriends!), he steals the show every second he is on screen. As soon as he first appears it almost feels like it becomes the Neil Patrick Harris movie with Harold and Kumar becoming the side characters. I can't really tell if having more NPH would be a bad thing or not because his appearances are always at the right time and he only ever has a few (very memorable) scenes until we are whisked right back into a Harold and Kumar movie, but I'll be damned if I didn't want more of him. I believe his cameos in these movies work BECAUSE of how brief they are though and should stay as brief as they always are. Regardless though he still owns every single second he is on screen and had me in stitches the whole time.

Harold and Kumar in 3D! Comin at ya!

Now let's talk a little 3D shall we. In case you haven't realized it by now after all the ads and in your face promotions, this movie is in fact in 3D. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am not a huge fan of the third dimension. I often feel like it is distracting and unnecessary. Some films can benefit from being in 3D but it is my opinion that most films are ruined by it. A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas isn't really trying to be a good 3D movie though, it is trying to make fun of all the movies that want to be cool 3D movies. It doesn't take jabs at any one particular movie but more the format itself. Most of the gags worked too, eggs and beer pong balls come flying at the screen in the most ridiculous fashion and there are plenty of slow motion sequences with camera pans that put most 3D action movies to shame. The really funny thing about how this film makes fun of 3D is that in some strange and twisted way it actually becomes a really good 3D movie in the process and tops many of the big blockbuster films that have come out recently in both imagination and execution.

Not everything is peaches and cream with the 3D though. There were a few little gags they did where things would appear to hit the camera lens that looked pretty bad and not in a funny self referential way either. That can be said for the movie in general though. For every few funny lines of dialog or  every few funny gags there were some that didn't quite work out. The best example I can give is the Wafflebot, a new toy that is being heavily promoted in the film that is in reference to the idea of the one gotta have it Christmas item of the year. It pops up all throughout the film and is even featured prominently in the one big musical number they have. I am not entirely sure what it was that didn't work for me, I would say it was a little too cartoonish but isn't that what a Harold and Kumar movie is supposed to be like? It just felt a little too out of place and fake even for this movie which is saying something considering all the other shit that goes down in it.

NPH is back from the dead and horny as a dog.

I also thought the ending was a little to abrupt. Don't get me wrong here, I wasn't expecting any sort of epic conclusion but it just seemed to wrap up very quickly. As soon as Harold and Kumar find Santa the film is pretty much over other than a couple quick scenes with the two of them making amends and setting everything right. I am not sure if I wanted it to keep going or that I was expecting the film to use Santa a bit more. Questioning this movie defeats the purpose though, once you start down that road it will consume you and you will never stop trying to put the pieces together. The main problem with that (beyond the fact that you just shouldn't do it) is that it is impossible to do. Things happen in this movie for no other reason than to have it happen. Normally that would be a big issue for me but with such a likable cast and despite being rather obscene and raunchy most of the time the film has a good heart to it. Believe it or not but both Harold and Kumar actually grow as characters by the end of the movie which is something I wasn't expecting at all.

Third times the charm indeed for Harold and Kumar fans, if you are like me and felt like the second film was pretty worthless but you really enjoyed the first one then I think you will enjoy this third film a whole lot more than you are probably expecting. The fact that it is also a great Christmas movie is just an added bonus. I don't think it will go down as a holiday classic but I can see a time when it and Bad Santa will become a Christmas double feature standard for me. There aren't too many Christmas movies made for adults and even fewer that are worth a damn. Leave the kids at home and do yourself a favor and...


Don't miss our latest episode of The LRA Show where we discuss A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas in much greater detail. The episode can be found at the following link:



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