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A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas Review

Sam’s Rating: 7/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7.0/10
(2 reviews total)

From the get-go, the “Harold and Kumar” films have
been easy to like, something that can’t be said for most comedies that take aim
at social norms and political correctness the way this franchise has. Despite
all the insane stoner antics and gleefully racy jokes, the relatable friendship
between Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) provided a solid emtional core
for the mayhem to build off of, and the absolute necessity of its stars has
kept the brand largely undiluted by DVD prequels and spinoffs.

So it’s only
fitting that their latest adventure sets its sights on the warmest and cheesiest
of genres, the Christmas movie, pulling out all the stops in a total disregard for
the sanctity of the holidays that gives the well-worn pot and stereotype
material a much needed boost.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas picks
up six years after “Escape from Guantanamo Bay,” which puts Harold and Kumar
much closer to the age of the actors playing them, but further apart than we’ve
ever seen them. Kumar hasn’t abandoned the bohemian dream of responsibility-free
binge smoking even though Harold has left him for a good job and a hot wife
with an absolutely terrifying father (solidly played by Danny Trejo, who brings
his trademark so-scary-it’s-funny glowering). A chance reunion of the boys caused
by a mysterious package for Harold left at Kumar’s door leads to a mishap that
sends the pair off on the most festive of quests: finding a Christmas tree.

The holidays are the
perfect background for stories of reunion and writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden
Schlossberg manage to wring some nice moments of self-awareness when the
drug-fueled escapades keep getting buzz-killed by the assumption that the
characters should be growing up. It’s been seven years since “Go to White
Castle” and as Harold knowingly points out, most people lose half their
friends in that time, something franchise die-hards may consider when
remembering who they watched each film with. To say that the series has been a poignant
commentary on maturing relationships might be a stretch, but it’s great to see
a buddy comedy willing to look at how friendships often don’t remain in a
static bubble the way that movie ones do.

Granted, all of this is
really secondary to the jokes, which should satisfy fans of the previous films despite
being mostly retreads of earlier riffs redressed in a holiday theme. Sex, race
and drugs continue as the prime source of laughs but with an increased focus on
meta-humor, including a nice dig at Penn’s stint with the White House and a litany
of jabs at 3D (more on that in a bit). The festive spirit really elevates the
material, with a tired “someone spiked our drink” gag acting as an excuse for
an extended homage to claymation specials and the movie has what’s probably the
best A Christmas Story reference you’re
like to see in an R-rated film.

The holiday setting
extends into the film’s structure, using the often continuity-free magic of the
Christmas special as a perfect reason to lean into the series’ increasingly prominent
weird side. The shots of coked-out babies, Jesus and a resurrected Neil Patrick
Harris that made it into the trailers all come together in a plot that’s not
just coherent, but well paced, moving Harold and Kumar from one absurd comic set piece
to another with great economy. As in the previous films, Neil Patrick Harris is
a real highlight as his revived career only gives him more reason to be a
crack-addled womanizer who resembles a sexual predator more and more with each movie.

And in addition to
embracing the holiday spirit, the 3D tag in the title is no afterthought, as
this is about as great an apotheosis of the technology as there ever will be. Bong
smoke billows out at every opportunity and the various objects and fluids shot
out at the audience are great gags in and of themselves. It’s a cathartic last
hurrah for anyone tired of the extra dimension, but of course this will likely
limit the film’s replay value as the 3D money shots won’t play with the same
effect on a standard TV. Still, as a send-up of Hollywood’s most tiring trend, the
constant winking at the camera plays well even without the added depth.

It’s a real rarity, but
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
manages to breathe life into its well-established formula by using the same tricks
that reek of desperation in other franchises. By committing to the Christmas
movie formula and exploiting 3D to its gloriously stupid limit, a coda to the
trilogy is enjoyably achieved. Though a sequel is always an option, leaving these
characters as is will no doubt place “Harold & Kumar” among the greats of
stoner comedies.

Rating: 7/10

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas 
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson
Written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris

Other Player Affinity Staff Reviews

Simon thought: “Audacious 3D, profane, pot-smoking yuletide antics, and Neil Patrick Harris. Need I say more?” Rating: 7/10

Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7.0/10

Rating
7.0

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