John Cho and Kal Penn have starred in two Harold & Kumar movies, both of which are insane and seem to be the product of a screenwriter and director high on cocaine. Yet they are straight-laced comedies. Now, in their third outing as the matched but mismatched bong-smoking duo, they seem to be taking the piss out of themselves, and indeed even the filmmakers appear to be doing so. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is doing more than just making us laugh, it’s making a statement, a statement about commercialism, religion, and even 3D (the fact that it has “3D” in its title is already saying something).
There’s a scene near the beginning of the movie where Harold (John Cho) is looking out of his office window at a bunch of hobos protesting. Then his secretary or whatever (the same nerdy asian guy we see in the first Harold & Kumar movie) enters with a large flat screen TV as a gift for Harold to give to his arriving father-in-law. The secretary starts describing the TV and as he mentions its 3D capabilities he turns to the camera, stretches out his arms and makes an exclamation. It’s almost a self-reflexive gesture, a sort of over-the-top mockery of 3D technology aimed directly at us. Harold then lazily quips “who are you talking to?”. Who indeed?
Then the movie begins proper, and we discover that Harold and Kumar (Kal Penn) are no longer friends, that Harold has married Maria (Paula Garces) and moved in to a luxurious suburban mansion with her, while Kumar remains obsessed with bongs and weed in his crummy unclean apartment. This is good because it’s fresh. For the past two movies we’ve seen the two quarrel and then patch things up, so it’s nice to see them not even together here as the movie opens.
As with all Harold & Kumar movies, something has to happen to kickstart their ridiculous adventure and this time — yet again — it’s Kumar who pulls the trigger. Harold’s father-in-law arrives, bringing his own Christmas tree to replace Harold’s (he and his family are staying with him). The father-in-law tells how the tree has been growing for eight years and that it’s precious. So, naturally, Kumar sets it on fire. Now Harold needs to find a replacement tree before his father-in-law returns from midnight Christmas mass and finds it gone.
If you’re expecting a crazy adventure where many things don’t make sense, you’d be right, but this third part to the trilogy takes everything a few steps further. There’s a claymation segment which is every bit as brilliant as it is ridiculous, a smartly constructed and beautiful sequence where Kumar is explaining to Harold his plan for stealing a tree from a church, and a rather controversial but hilarious heaven scene in which Neil Patrick Harris describes how he returned to life from being shot dead in the previous film. There are even little quips about NPH’s sexuality and they’re played out to perfection with his real life boyfriend David Burtka.
They all just click, except for two things — well maybe three: Kumar’s friend Adrian, Harold’s friend Todd, and Todd’s little baby daughter. Together these three characters push the boundary of what’s considered funny and what’s considered annoying, and I’m more inclined to go with the latter even though they do give us some comical moments. Still, they don’t take much away from this movie’s laughter.
Best Moment | Oh there are so many to choose from. The claymation segment? Harold getting his penis stuck to a pole and then having Kumar empty a flask of scalding hot coffee onto it? Or maybe Santa admitting that he masturbates into Christmas stockings?
Worst Moment | Probably the bit where Adrian and Todd are trapped in a gangster’s closet and Todd’s tripped up daughter crawls on the ceiling like an inverted roadrunner. Creepy, yes. Funny, not really.