Harold & Kumar get baked in three-dimensions in this counter-cultural alternative to Bad Santa.
Who made it?: Todd Strauss-Schulson (Director), Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg (Writers), Greg Shapiro (Producer), New Line Cinema.
Who’s in it?: Kal Penn, John Cho, Neil Patrick Harris, Danny Trejo, Patton Oswalt.
Tagline: “Christmas comes prematurely.”
IMDb rating: 6.3/10.
To state the obvious, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is not aimed at the demographic who enjoy watching Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve. Rather, this is a raunchy, profane, R-rated stoner comedy better suited for those who prefer unorthodox Christmas films more in line with Bad Santa. The law of diminishing returns is not in effect here, as this third theatrical instalment in the Harold & Kumar franchise is arguably better than its predecessors – it’s a smooth, hugely enjoyable comedic ride, and its target audience will no doubt be satisfied. Best of all, one does not need to be a fan of Harold and Kumar to enjoy this festive-themed entry.
In the years since the last movie, Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) have grown apart, with Kumar never having abandoned his immature drugs n’ booze lifestyle while Harold is living in the suburbs with partner Maria (Paula Garcés). Anxious to impress his father-in-law (Danny Trejo) during a visit from Maria’s extended family, Harold accepts the responsibility of decorating a rare family Christmas tree while everyone else attends yuletide festivities. When a package for Harold shows up on Kumar’s doorstep, he decides to deliver it to his old friend, which reunites the pair. Unfortunately, Kumar’s visit results in the Christmas tree being set alight, leaving Harold horrified and anxious to locate a replacement with mere hours to spare.
In terms of plotting, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is completely flimsy, as it relies on an overly familiar set-up beset with conventional plot points. In fact, the premise is fairly reminiscent of Jingle All the Way, as the quest to find a suitable tree suffers continual drawbacks. To the credit of writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (veterans of the franchise), the clichéd broad strokes are often coloured in with brilliant comedic set-pieces, but at other times one can literally hear the gears of the plot grinding into place, especially with Harold and Kumar making up through their adventure. Or, most egregiously, the “do you know what I’ve been through tonight?” speech, a trope which seriously needs to be retired.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is not a movie you will want to watch with your parents or grandparents on Christmas Eve, unless they actually enjoy crass films of this ilk. Indeed, the flick is about as tasteful as a Jim Jefferies stand-up special, full of profanity, drug use and content to offend pretty much everyone, but it’s all delivered with enough wit to make it work if you’re in the proper mindset. There are even some sly sight gags which had this reviewer howling with laughter. Nothing is safe – religion and homosexuality is skewered, and there’s even a Claymation sequence parodying classic Rankin/Bass holiday specials in which Kumar whips out an enormous clay penis. And just to show that nothing is out of bounds for these guys, a little girl is seen getting high on marijuana and cocaine…before taking an ecstasy tablet. If any of this sounds too offensive for you, don’t watch it.
Hurwitz and Schlossberg helmed the previous Harold & Kumar adventures, but relinquished the director’s seat here to Todd Strauss-Schulson, as the pair were busy with American Reunion. The change in directors is seamless, and Strauss-Schulson thankfully gives bright, energetic life to the screenplay. Pacing is admittedly a tad uneven, but the flick really soars when it clicks into gear. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas was planned and shot with the intention of being seen in 3D, which thankfully yields a magnificent experience. In fact, the movie is best watched in 3D, as the extra-dimensional effects enhance the fun. This is not subtle, immersive 3D – it’s gimmicky, in-your-face 3D solely for comedic effect. Pretty much every scene features things popping out of the screen at you, from marijuana smoke to the aforementioned clay penis. Added to this, there are little jabs against 3D in the dialogue (when presented with a 3D TV, Harold asks “Hasn’t the whole 3D thing jumped the shark by now?”). As a result, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is a sly satire of the 3D craze, enhancing the picture’s humour.
Neil Patrick Harris is a veteran of the Harold and Kumar movies, and he shows up yet again here, representing one of the picture’s highlights. Harris has always been a great sport in these flicks, playing an exaggerated version of himself who’s debauched and drug-addicted. Since NPH is now openly gay, the script incorporates this in a hilarious way (Harris’ real-life partner cameos). It’s clear that the actor had an absolute ball here in this wildly over-the-top role, and you’ll be left wanting to see more of him after he exits the film. Still, he doesn’t feel underused, as this version of NPH works best as a scene-stealing supporting character. Fortunately, the rest of the cast are all sound as well, with Penn and Cho sliding back into their roles with ease. Patton Oswalt even has a cameo as a mall Santa which is a brief but nice addition, and the casting of Danny Trejo as Maria’s intimidating father is fucking inspired. There’s a colourful supporting cast as well, including Thomas Lennon and Amir Blumenfeld who play Harold and Kumar’s new friends (respectively), while Elias Koteas is amusing as a Ukrainian gangster.
It’s up to you whether or not A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas will ever become a classic. It will definitely join my annual Christmastime traditions, as I laughed consistently and have enjoyed it just as much upon repeat viewings. But it’s definitely for a very specific sense of humour, so only proceed if you’re not easily offended.
This… is… genius…
- One of the lies Adrian tells to the virgin is that Kumar works at the White House. Kal Penn, who plays Kumar, actually works at the White House and took time off from that job to make this movie.
- Adrian calls Harold “Sulu” at one point. John Cho, who plays Harold, also played Sulu in the 2009 version of Star Trek.
- It was Todd Strauss-Schulson suggested casting Danny Trejo after making a Photoshop picture of him wearing a Christmas sweater.