Friday, February 24, 2012

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas [film review]

Released theatrically in November 2011; now available on DVD and Blu-ray
A few weeks after my post wondering where all the good film comedies had gone, I experienced the incredibly vulgar shenanigans cooked up in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas...and loved nearly every sick minute of it. Finally, a truly excellent Hollywood comedy movie capable of executing a highly impressive hit-to-miss joke ratio that leaves vastly overrated fare like Bridesmaids, currently basking in inexplicable Oscar-nominated glory, in its dust. The third entry in the Harold & Kumar series picks up several years after the somewhat disappointing Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay's conclusion, finding Harold (played by John Cho) now married, living a straight-laced life in the suburbs, and working on Wall Street. Estranged from the still-slacking and underachieving Kumar (played by Kal Penn), the pair are reunited right before Christmas for a caper that involves the search for a special Christmas tree (to sum it up as succinctly as possible and not give too much away).
Some of the notable new faces to the series include Patton Oswalt in a cameo, Elias Koteas as a Ukrainian mob boss, Thomas Lennon as an uptight suburban dad, rapper RZA in a hilarious scene sending up racial stereotypes, and Danny Trejo as Harold's petrifying father-in-law. Trejo's casting pays off in the laughs department, even if he is playing his familiar rough and intimidating character. Familiar Harold & Kumar characters that return include Paula Garces as Harold's now-wife, Eddie Kaye Thomas and David Krumholtz as the Jewish stoners, and, of course Neil Patrick Harris, reprising his role as the Bizarro World version of himself. As in the previous two films, Harris' brief screen time (the filmmakers smartly don't let him wear out his welcome) delivers some of the movie's funniest moments, mostly derived from the over-the-top portrayal of himself as a drugged-up, lecherous skirt chaser who uses his homosexuality as a front for getting close to attractive women. That Harris' character was killed off in the second film is of little consequence to screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg - they casually shrug it off with a thin, but amusing (and extremely blasphemous) explanation. They get away with it, too, purely due to the fact that the tenuous grasp on reality that the stories in this series have allow them such a luxury. Both Cho and Penn are terrific, once again demonstrating great chemistry as the loveable stoners who are game for any of the usually off-colour situations they regularly find themselves in, which brings to mind this bizarre thought: it's impossible to watch this film and not be reminded that Penn literally worked in the Obama administration, as the Associate Director for the White House Office of Public Engagement (look it up) before and after shooting this film. I wonder what the President thought of the can't-believe-they-went-that-far part from this movie that takes a memorable scene from the beloved classic A Christmas Story and disturbingly flips it on its head?
First time director Todd Strauss-Schulson and his team have crafted the ultimate counter-programming feature for the feel-good holiday season, where the comedy in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is frequently clever, perpetually crude, and consistently entertaining. What's not to love in a film that features Santa Claus being shot in the face, a coked-up infant, a self-aware waffle-serving robot, and a drug-induced claymation sequence with visual dick jokes? I viewed the movie in regular 2D and although I'm not a big fan of today's 3D trend, I probably would have enjoyed this movie even more in that format. Many of the 3D gags are of the intentionally cheesy kind and look to have been well done, but not too overdone. Hopefully, the series will get a fourth installment, as Christmas underperformed at the box office this past holiday season, taking in less than its predecessor.
Rating: A

4 comments:

  1. I have to disagree on this one!
    I had a hard time with this movie, despite being a huge fan of the first two. The outrageous scenarios in this one just fell flat in the actual execution. In my opinon, by the time they sat down to make this third movie they knew they had a workable structure for laughs (attacking traditionally safe and previously unassailable themes like 'Santa Claus', 'the innocence of children', and even the movie "A Christmas Story") but it felt like they just sort of phoned in the jokes - it was all a little TOO contrived, which I know is a ridiculous thing to say about the Harold & Kumar franchise. But it smacked of FORMULA this time, in much the same way the Austin Powers movies gradually fell apart for the same reason.

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  2. Damn! I figured if anyone was a fan of the first two then for sure they'd love this...but then, I also can't wrap my head around how anyone (such as yourself!) who likes classic Van Halen isn't blown away by their new album. That's cool, though...everyone's different. I'd have to agree with you on the point that the movie wasn't terribly original in terms of some of its themes. All I know is that I couldn't stop laughing, which very VERY rarely happens when I watch a movie that's supposed to do just that.

    Appreciate the input, Max.

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  3. I have to admit I have never seen a Harold And Kumar movie.

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