By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, Nov. 4, 2011
It's tempting to suggest that viewers shouldn't go to see "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" - the third installment in the popular stoner-comedy series - without making sure they arrive pre-loaded, if you know what I mean. But that would be irresponsible.
Not to mention unnecessary. There's so much on-screen drug use (enhanced by 3D imagery that enables characters to, almost literally, blow smoke rings in your face) that you get a kind of contact high just from watching it. It's a decent but not amazing buzz, somewhere between "Half Baked" and "Pineapple Express." While not as funny as the original, 2004's "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," it's still a modest improvement over the 2008 sequel, "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay."
And by "improvement," I mean that the humor is even more wildly inappropriate, with a running joke about getting a baby stoned on pot, coke and ecstasy, and a scene inspired by the famous incident in "A Christmas Story" where the kid gets his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole. In "Harold and Kumar," however, it isn't a tongue - let me just say kudos to the F/X team.
When we first catch up with our protagonists - former roommates and BFFs Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) - the two have gone their separate ways. Harold, whose friends now call him "Harry," is a married banker living in the suburbs with his beautiful wife (Paula Garces). Kumar, having been thrown out of medical school after a failed drug test, is still living in the pair's dumpy old apartment, where he appears to do nothing except get high all day. Well, almost nothing - his ex-girlfriend (Danneel Harris) has just announced that she's pregnant.
Through a complex chain of events - precipitated by Kumar's attempt to deliver a package containing a banana-size joint to Harold's house on Christmas Eve - the two find themselves again thrown together in a series of silly misadventures, this time revolving around the search for a Christmas tree. The subplot has to do with estranged friends reconciling and growing up - but not too much. The laughs are, for the most part, as lowbrow as they come.
They're also hit-and-miss. The Claymation hallucination that results from Harold and Kumar being slipped a Mickey at a high school party? Pretty funny. The Ukrainian mobsters who subsequently try to kill our heroes after they are accused of molesting the mob boss's teenage daughter (Jordan Hinson)? Not so much.
Fortunately, the pace is pell-mell enough that the live jokes explode just as the smoke from the earlier duds is clearing. A self-deprecating Neil Patrick Harris, of course, reprises his role as a coarsened, crazier version of himself. Fans of the actor's previous "Harold and Kumar" appearances will not be disappointed. Other notable cameos include Patton Oswalt as a drug-dealing department store Santa, Danny Trejo as Harold's hard-to-please father-in-law, and RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan as a Christmas tree salesman.
Now, about the 3D thing. Although it makes fun of everyone under the sun - Jews, blacks, gays, Koreans, Indians, Mexicans, nuns, Santa, children and Jesus Christ - "Harold and Kumar" reserves most of its ammunition for movies themselves, especially stupid 3D ones.
"Hasn't the whole 3D thing jumped the shark by now?" Harold asks, in one of several self-referential lines. (Another makes reference to Penn's short-lived stint as a White House staffer, a job he left to make this movie.)
The answer, if "Harold and Kumar" is any evidence, is no. The movie makes good use of the technology to ridicule the technology itself, tossing eggs, ping-pong balls, orange traffic barrels, shards of glass and - at one point - a kilo of cocaine at the camera.
It's silly, silly stuff, and the movie knows it. But if you can't laugh at yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?