Has it come to this? A 3D stoner comedy? A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas spends almost all of its eighty-nine minutes shoving this process down our throats, as if we didn’t already know it was nothing more than a gimmick concocted by fad-frenzied filmmakers. In the course of this movie, we will have to watch as eggs, a ping pong ball, human fists, a claymation penis, a cane that shoots confetti, a winking baby Jesus manger doll, broken glass, a charred Christmas tree, blood, a gigantic joint, and of course, marijuana smoke assault our field of vision as they come flying off of the screen. We will also see freeze-frame shots of a tooth, which came from the mouth of a man getting punched across the jaw, and semen in mid-ejaculation. I wonder: Do you have to be high to laugh at this?
Here is a bad movie made even worse by the fact that it simply didn’t need to be. 2004’s Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle was irreverent, raunchy, and insane, but because the filmmakers actually worked to make the characters and the plot engaging, it had a certain wacky charm. The same cannot be said about 2008’s Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, which was more scatological and reached way, way too far as a satire of racism, terrorism, intolerance, and patriotism. Now that we’ve reached the third chapter in the series, what was initially amusing has devolved into an awkward mix between contrived sentimentality and pure juvenile goofiness. There’s nothing innately humorous about Santa getting shot in the head before smoking from a candy-striped bong. And I don’t care how much of a prude you think I am – under no circumstances is it funny for a toddler to get high on pot, cocaine, and ecstasy. Absolutely no circumstances.
It has been two years since Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) have last seen or spoken to each other. The former has since gotten married to the love of his life, Maria (Paula Garces), has moved into the suburbs, and has abstained from pot in the hopes of having a baby. The latter has dropped out of medical school and spends all day in his filthy apartment getting stoned. It’s precisely because of this that he has been dumped by his girlfriend, Vanessa (Danneel Ackles). She is not, however, out of the picture, and of that, I will say no more. On Christmas Eve, Kumar is delivered a mysterious package, although it’s actually addressed to Harold. The two reunite, and then it becomes the same old, same old – just one disastrous thing leading to another.
The long and short of it is, Harold accidentally burns down a Christmas tree provided by his father-in-law (Danny Trejo), who, along with the rest of the extended family, is visiting Maria for the weekend. He loves Christmas, but like all fathers-in-law in movies like this, he thinks Harold isn’t good enough for his daughter. Anyway, while Maria and her family are away at Evening Mass, Harold and Kumar frantically search the city for a replacement Christmas tree. Along the way, they will cross paths with Ukrainian gangsters, drink spiked eggnog and have a Rankin/Bass claymation hallucination, and stitch up a blood-spurting hole in Santa’s head after Harold accidentally shoots him out of the sky. Oh, and they will have another unlikely run in with Neil Patrick Harris, now the star of a Christmas stage show.
But wait a minute. Wasn’t Harris shot to death at a Texas brothel after branding one of the prostitutes? See for yourself how he got out of that one. Anyway, we learn that he remains an egotistical, drugged-out sex maniac. And that whole gay thing? Merely a front – a way to feed into his addiction to women and crack, however the hell that’s supposed to work. He shares one scene with his real life partner David Burtka, who, according to the film, is just as straight as Harris and has a wife and children. I at one time wondered how the filmmakers would continue this running gag, although now that I’ve actually seen it unfold, I find that it didn’t much matter; it would have been a tired joke no matter what direction the writers took it in.
When we’re not watching the title characters go on their desperate escapade, we’re enduring frivolous subplots, most notably the relationship between Kumar and Vanessa. The others involve broad caricatures, including Kumar’s sex-starved friend, Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld), and Harold’s friend, Todd (Tom Lennon), who constantly looks like an idiot because he censors himself. He carries around his infant daughter, who ends up being exposed to not one but three types of drugs and is at one point so wired that she crawls around the ceiling at breakneck speed. This must have been a sadistic urge on the part of the filmmakers, one that should have been suppressed. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is an unfortunate example of quantity over quality. It’s a franchise pusher, an unnecessary sequel to a movie that was decent enough to stand on its own.
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