Like the eponymous friends in A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, the audience and its relationship with the franchise have started to move in different directions. Some of us have grown a little older and wiser, maybe preferring baking to getting baked. Some of us, of course, have not. It’s nice to get together for the holidays though, if only for a quick drink and maybe a burger or two to relive the halcyon days.
It’s with that lingering affection that I sat through the duo’s latest, and perhaps last, adventure, knowing that there’s only so much you can expect from stoners on the edge of 30. It turns out that tempering expectations is the way to go. The film is far from the freshness and absurdity that catapulted the characters and stars to coed heroes back in 2004. This time around, they are still determined to complete a disarmingly simple mission only to find themselves coming up against the most outrageous, bizarre obstacles imaginable, and Neil Patrick Harris
After seven years, the two reunite when a package addressed to Harold (John Cho) ends up at Kumar’s (Kal Penn) apartment. The erstwhile friends are living separate lives – Harold as a Wall Street banker who’s married to his White Castle sweetheart Maria (Paula Garces) and Kumar as the same weed-smoking layabout with little interpersonal skill and even less ambition. An accident with the package – an unusually large blunt – sets the Christmas tree alight and has Harold scrambling around the city to find a replacement before Maria’s family returns from Christmas Eve mass. He is particularly concerned about her father (Danny Trejo), not only a tough who looks like Danny Trejo but also a man who is serious about Christmas and trees.
There’s no rhyme or reason to anything that happens thereafter, including the nonsensical use of 3D, and the film’s overall patchiness leaves great pregnant pauses between laughs. The pursuit involves a Russian mob boss and his virginal daughter, Harold and Kumar getting the Claymation treatment, a run-in with their old Jewish friends, one of whom has become an ardent Christian, a pretty sacrilegious sequence involving nuns and altar boys, and a NSFW re-creation of the flagpole scene in A Christmas Story. Slutty, pretend gay NPH also returns for a scene-chewing bit that is admittedly funny but also exhausted in the trailer.
The writers go on the offensive, in every sense of the word, when it comes to crude jokes and cracks at racial stereotypes, but none are as edgy and funny as those in the original film. On the one hand, it’s good that we maybe have moved to a point where the “all Asians look alike” line has gotten stale, but a look around the real world shows that there are plenty of race issues that our two non-white heroes could take on. It’s not the film’s responsibility to make a social statement, but let’s remember that White Castle very consciously did that, while and because it was just a film about two stoners.
There are a lot of things I can forgive and overlook though; it’s Christmas, after all. Cho and Penn are reliable as ever, and though they could have easily phoned in their parts, the odd couple bromance comes through. Both characters show they’ve grown up a little, and despite their sometimes juvenile escapades, they prove to be talented, capable, and now responsible people. Cheers to that.
Prod: Greg Shapiro
Dir: Todd Schulz-Schulson
Writer: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Cast: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Danny Trejo, Paula Garcés, Danneel Harris, Thomas Lennon, Elias Koteas, Patton Oswalt, Eddie Kaye Thomas, David Krumholtz, Amir Blumenfeld, Richard Riehle, Jake Johnson, Bobby Lee, David Burtka, RZA, Da’Vone McDonald
Time: 89 min
Country: United States