Holiday Movie Month: "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" Review

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The third installment in the Harold & Kumar film series and the sequel to 2004's Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Six years after their Guantanamo Bay adventure, estranged stoner buds Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) cause a holiday fracas by inadvertently burning down Harold's father-in-law's prize Christmas tree.
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Holiday Movie Month: "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" Review

Rating: R (strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use, and some violence)
Length: 132 minutes
Release Date: November 4, 2011
Directed by:Todd Strauss-Schulson
Genre: Comedy

The last time audiences saw Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn), they had survived a racist deputy secretary of Homeland Security, the dire conditions of Guantanamo Bay Prison, and a group of very angry Klansmen only to end up literally crashing into President George W. Bush's vacation home in Texas and smoking some quality marijuana with him. In "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas," viewers meet them six years later as the two friends reunite for the holidays. This stoner holiday comedy is probably the first of its kind and is in 3-D to boot.

After the two friends have gone their own ways following their adventures in the previous film, Kumar seems to be living in much the same manner as before; although things are a little less adventuresome without his buddy, trouble still sticks to him. His girlfriend, Vanessa (Danneel Harris), informs him that she is dumping him and that she is pregnant. But when he receives a package for Harold, he sees no option but to search out his friend and bring it to him. Harold has changed; he has settled down and married a nice girl, Maria (Paula Garces), and holds down a respectable Wall Street job. Although he and Maria are currently staying at her parents' suburban house, the couple is clearly on the way to respectability, so it is not surprising that Harold has also stopped smoking weed. Maria's father (Danny Trejo) has brought them a very special Christmas tree to decorate that he has personally grown from a sapling. Harold is sure he is up to the task of proving his worth.

Harold, who has for the most part played the straight man in the film series, is not unwelcoming to his old friend, but even after they discover that the package for him is a gigantic joint, he refuses to share in it after Kumar lights it up and passes it to him. Harold flicks it away, and in a comedy like this, there is only one place it can land and only one thing that can go up in flames: Mr. Perez's prized Christmas tree. So the rest of the movie has the duo up to their old crude antics but with a Christmassy touch. In an allusion to what now has become an iconic holiday movie, "A Christmas Story," it is not their tongues that get stuck to a freezing pole but another human part more befitting of the duo's style of comedy.

In their search for a replacement for Mr. Perez's perfect Christmas tree, the usual chaos ensues. This time, the duo is not pursued by Homeland Security or Klansmen but by thugs who take orders from a Ukrainian mobster (Elias Koteas) who believes that the pair raped his daughter. Along the way, Santa accidentally gets shot in the head and the guys come across Neil Patrick Harris (as himself), whom they thought was dead. He got shot in a whorehouse in the last installment of the series.

Neil explains that he had in fact died, and in one of the funniest scenes in the movie, Neil is in heaven, a sultry nightclub run by an inept, rich-boy Jesus (Jake Johnson) for his father. Jesus does not like the fact that Neil might be moving in on his women, so Neil is booted from heaven.

Eventually, Santa recovers from his head wound and gets a new tree for the Perez household, so everybody can reunite happily, even Vanessa and Kumar. This time, the final song is enjoyed not by the president of the United States or by the guys but by Santa himself, alone on his sleigh.

What makes most stoner comedies successful—and this is true of "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay"—is the relentless and irreverent attack on things that are considered respectful, even sacred, in current society. A film willing to satirize the country's security apparatus and even the office of the president in harsh ways has much promise, and the crass humor in "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" delivers a double-edged cut: it is improper because of its content but perhaps even more improper because of its target, the way the country protects itself against future terrorist attacks. This heightens the possibility of enduring and memorable comedy. "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas," on the other hand, is a satire not so much of Christmas but of Christmas movies and other Christmas events, which have become so hyperbolic in nature in contemporary culture that they are too easy targets for this talented comic duo. So the results, while funny, lack the edge of some of their previous comedies.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars