Set to blow smoke rings around the competition this weekend (and potentially drive up sales at the concession stand), A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is the latest in this cult hit series that acts as a palate-cleansing (or should it be palate-dirtying?) entrée to the holiday movie-going season usually loaded (HA!) with classy, award-garnering fare.
While there’s no mistaking a Harold & Kumar movie for something that’s going win an Oscar, movie fans shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss these 21st century incarnations of Cheech and Chong as purely shallow entertainment (although there’s certainly plenty of that involved).
Along with the regular ragged assortment of sacrilegious, scatological and socially reprehensible material, there’s a hint of true subtle wit bordering on social commentary as well as clever Metahumour peppered throughout all three films. In the case of this latest film, canny winks at Kal Penn’s stint in Obama’s White House and a playful twist on Neil Patrick Harris’ public persona (the actor publicly came out of the closet since the last film) elevates the comedy so that it can be enjoyed on several different levels…of intelligence and inebriation.
This time around, the tale of two drug buddies finds Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) six years after the last film, now estranged from one another due to their varying degrees of maturity. Harold is a be-suited workaholic, married to his dream girl, owner of a nice house in the ‘burbs and trying for a baby. Kumar is still in his old apartment, jobless, directionless and ambitionless thanks to his pot smoking, and in the throes of a break up with his girlfriend who’s just announced she’s pregnant. They’ve even each acquired new sidekicks: Harold a neurotic house husband named Todd (Thomas Lennon) and Kumar a soulless party boy named Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld).
What could bring these old friends back together? Why, nothing short of a Christmas miracle, of course.
When Kumar receives a package meant for Harold, he makes the trek out to the suburbs on Christmas Eve, inadvertently bringing with him exactly the type of chaos that Harold has so stridently been trying to avoid. Kumar ends up accidentally setting Harold’s in-laws’ prized Christmas tree aflame and the two are forced to mend their fences long enough to search out a replacement before the family gets back from Midnight Mass.
Of course, the quest turns out to be not so simple and Harold, Kumar, Adrian, Todd and Todd’s 2-year-old daughter are quickly drawn into a zany Christmas Eve adventure that includes: Russian mobsters, an LSD-fuelled trip through Central Park, a coke-snorting toddler, an accidental shooting of Santa, a visit to Jesus’ bachelor pad, a vengeful waffle-making robot and a Broadway spectacular starring that bad boy horn-dog we’ve come to know and love: Neil Patrick Harris.
Writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who also gave us the first two films, never aspire to anything too lofty in the funny-making department. They stick to what they know best, doling out a ton of crude fun while remaining impressively unapologetic about the film’s gleefully absurd brand of humour.
The film also contains the best use of 3D seen in a while, with director Todd Strauss-Schulson hilariously sending up the film industry’s gimmick-y overuse of the technology while at the same time artfully exploiting it. Everything from bodily fluids and glass shards to cocaine powder and smoke rings fly from the screen in such abundance that you may want to consider bringing an umbrella into the theatre with you.
Clearly this is not a film that’s going to please everyone, but if you’re looking for some high times at the theatre this weekend, consider A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas the first small gift of the holiday season.
While there’s no mistaking a Harold & Kumar movie for something that’s going win an Oscar, movie fans shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss these 21st century incarnations of Cheech and Chong as purely shallow entertainment.