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Six years have elapsed since Guantanemo Bay, leaving Harold and Kumar estranged from one another with very different families, friends and lives. But when Kumar arrives on Harold's doorstep during the holiday season with a mysterious package in hand, he inadvertently burns down Harold's father-in-law's beloved Christmas tree. To fix the problem, Harold and Kumar embark on a mission through New York City to find the perfect Christmas tree, once again stumbling into trouble at every single turn. Written by
The Harold & Kumar franchise is beginning to show signs of wear and tear, yet it still packs fun and laughs because of its actors and the lively, upbeat material. That's not to say the material is always shining, in fact, in terms of writing, this is probably the raunchiest installment in the franchise yet. Which doesn't mean it is the funniest. This may be the least funny of the series, yet this seems on the same level as Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, an inferior but amusing sequel.
Being faced with the third installment is always an iffy place to be. Especially when you see it end. You try and think to yourself whether or not a sequel will be made. Here? I'm honestly not sure. I don't want there to be, but there are a few set ups which make it seem like they are considering it. No sequel will match the humor the introduction to these characters brought us. It was erected from the simplicity of the story and the extreme likability of the characters.
John Cho and Kal Penn, who took a leave from his position at the White House, reprise their roles as the stoner duo who have now been out of contact for six years. Harold is a successful Wall Street banker, while Kumar is busy sitting on his couch with his buddy, smoking pot, and waiting for the next random hookup. Harold is married to the love of his life Maria (Garces), and her side of the family, including her father (Trejo), is coming over on Christmas Eve.
Maria's family is made up of thugs with tattoos and heavy muscles. Her father loves Christmas and cherishes it because when he was young he never had a respectable celebration with his family. When Maria and her family leave to attend a Midnight Mass, Harold is left in charge to decorate the authentic Christmas tree. Kumar comes over, and the duo accidentally burn down the tree (think hard, and the way they do it will come to you).
Harold and Kumar now team up to try and find a new Christmas tree for the family before the family comes home. Joining them for a brief amount of time on their adventure is Harold's friend, a new father with a child and Kumar's buddy who is hellbent on having sex with a young virgin. The baby jokes almost completely destroy the film with her inhaling marijuana smoke and cocaine. The result isn't laughter, but a cringing factor that can easily destroy a comedy film.
Thankfully, those two "characters" are abandoned while the real stars do what they do best. Wander around aimlessly, falling into comedic traps that are sometimes funny and sometimes not. Somewhere along the way in the second film, Harold & Kumar morphed into a strange, comedic fantasy rather than a straight forward comedy.
There was a gag in the second film about a child with a severe birth defect giving him only one eye, and very many scenes in this film involving fictionalized events such as a baby crawling around on the roof after getting mixed in with cocaine and the certain appearance of a jolly character. We begin to question why did the filmmakers feel the need to incorporate such far-fetched elements in a comedy. I believe it just adds to the phrase "stoner comedy film." As far as the 3D aspect of the film, it's there but not necessary. It looks better than a lot of 3D films I've seen over the years, but the extra ticket price is absurd for a film like this. One thing that incredibly aggravates me about this film is the fact that it is what I call a "3D abuser." This is the reason why 3D is a lose-lose for a movie; if you incorporate too many 3D elements in the film (IE: throwing things at the audience or having an opening credit sequence devoted to using the extra dimension) it will look awkward and out of place by the time you watch the 2D DVD. If you don't put the dimension to use and don't utilize enough, the film will be criticized for even using it in the first place. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, when titled something like A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas on DVD, will look awkward and very, very strange on a 2D disc.
But numerous pluses continue to put a smile on my easily pleased face. The presence of Neil Patrick Harris, the use of the two leads to the fullest degree, the excellent claymation sequence, and the touching ending show just what the franchise has long been about. Heart and hilarity. As much as I loved the first film and have a soft spot for each sequel, it's time for a good thing to come to an end. The series has just about overstayed its welcome, and another sequel could very much put an unwanted stain on the fabric of the franchise, like so many filmmakers feel like doing to franchises now.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is good, pre-holiday fun. It's not as downbeat and as miserable as Bad Santa, yet it doesn't have the pleasing plot of a Christmas classic. It takes its R rating, embraces it, and is proud of the way its traveled. After all, adventures to White Castle, Guantanamo Bay, and a search for a giant Christmas tree in the span of a few years is what I would call a long odyssey. An odyssey that should dock and deport before it goes into uncharted territory.
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Danny Trejo, Paul Garces, and Bobby Lee. Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson.
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