A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

by Martin R. "Vargo" Schneider

EXPECTATIONS: I readily admit to enjoying the first Harold and Kumar, but it should never have been made into a franchise. Or at the very least, it should have taken way longer to get to the holiday-cash-in mode than this. Hell, at least Shrek had the decency to keep their holiday TV specials on TV. I just can't understand what the goal was in making this a Christmas movie. Do they really think that people will make lighting a joint and watching A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas a holiday tradition for years to come? Because that sounds like the saddest Christmas ever.

REALITY: I would like to take this opportunity to explain something to the producers of A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, Pabst-drinking young people everywhere, and all the residents of Portland, Oregon: It does not make it okay to do something terrible if you spend the entire time explaining that you know how terrible it is. You're still doing it. Wearing an American flag as a shirt while knowing how tacky it is doesn't make it any less tacky. It just makes you someone who should know better. Similarly, making a 3-D movie that spends half its runtime making fun of the terrible 3-D movie trend doesn't change the fact that I had to pay more to see it. It just shows contempt for your audience. Then again, if your audience is honestly willing to pay more to see 3-D Claymation penises flying at their faces, maybe it's deserved.

Oh now! We've done something hilariously inept!

This time around, Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) have been separated for years, as Harold has gotten married and is a successful businessman, while Kumar desperately tries to cling to the past, wallowing in filth and self-pity after being dumped by his girlfriend. Harold dodges Wall Street protesters throwing eggs on Christmas Eve to come home and discover his wife's entire family has arrived for Christmas. (Yes, there are Wall Street protesters in this movie. Harold and Kumar predicted Occupy Wall Street months in advance, and it treats the protestors with some respect and dignity. Harold even offers sympathy for their anger. Then one of them poops on a car. In 3-D.)

Eager to please his Christmas-loving father-in-law (Danny Trejo), Harold offers to stay home and decorate the tree while the others are at Midnight Mass. Kumar arrives to give Harold a package that was delivered to their old apartment, and he burns the tree down with a magic joint. Then, the movie becomes "Harold and Kumar and two guys who aren't Harold and Kumar so we don't care about them go looking for a tree." One of these two guys has his toddler with him, and there's a running gag about the child ingesting various drugs throughout the night. Also, somehow, Harold and Kumar find themselves being chased by angry mobsters and... wait, that storyline is never resolved. At the end of the movie, mobsters still want to kill Harold and Kumar. That doesn't get fixed. Did I mention that Kumar's ex-girlfriend is pregnant? Because that's happening too. Why does a movie whose primary audience is going to have trouble focusing on the story have such a complicated plot?

It's because the writers had no idea what they were doing, and also had no concept of what made the first Harold and Kumar good. Each of the films in the series has had a different director, and Todd Strauss-Shulson (who has one of the strangest IMDB pages I have ever seen) is definitely the worst. The film seems to exist in 20-minute intervals, just to get Harold and Kumar from one complication to the next. It's basically the same formula as White Castle without any of the storytelling ability or respect for the characters. Let's compare the Dei ex Machinis that resolve each of the movies. In White Castle, Neil Patrick Harris shows up at the end to save the day. This makes sense in the context of the movie, because they've run into Neil several times in the course of the story. He's a running gag, he's a recurring character, we've spent time with him, that's why it's funny to see him again. In Harold & Kumar Save Christmas, the Deus ex Machina comes from the duo being lost, randomly shooting a gun, and hitting Santa. We've never seen Santa thus far and the whole film has been relatively grounded in reality at this point (save the magical joint), but here's Santa! "Harold shot Santa" is the joke. The movie literally takes a shot in the dark because it has no idea where to go. If I thought there was even a hint of self-awareness there, I'd say it was brilliant.

Get the hell out of here, Harris. You don't even need the money anymore.

What about Neil Patrick Harris, you may wonder? I've been thinking about this myself. Doesn't the fact that Neil Patrick Harris is a big star now completely defeat his purpose in the Harold and Kumar franchise? The joke used to be "Haha, these stoners worship this washed-up child star." Now it's "Haha, these stoners worship this... generally beloved celebrity." Well, the movie clearly understands that Harris is actually their biggest draw by this point, because more thought is put into explaining these parts away in his 20-minute cameo than was put into the rest of the movie, even though he admits in character that he's only there because he's expected to be at this point.

Maybe I went into this film the wrong way, meaning without any intoxicants in my body. But the fact remains that this movie just isn't very good, and what's more, it really seems to hate its audience. In fact, the closest thing I can compare it to is a later-season episode of Family Guy. Both of them are so contemptuous of their viewers by this point that they feel they don't need to put in real effort, as though the producers just said "Eh, hell with it, you're going to watch it anyway." Harold and Kumar Christmas is an overdone TV special, and it doesn't even try to hide it. There are actual commercials for 3D televisions in the middle of the movie. (Side note, what was the Sharp TV company thinking when they bought product-placement space in this movie? Do they not realize that there's a difference between getting your audience to buy a $1500 TV and getting them to buy mini-cheeseburgers?)

It's a shame, because there are a handful of good ideas and about three funny gags in this movie. I liked the idea of Harold and Kumar growing up and starting families, even though I know it's just going to end in "Harold and Kumar Get Stoned at Daycare" or some crap. Essentially, if you're the kind of person who wants to see this movie, then you know who you are, I know who you are, the producers know who you are, and everyone I just listed hates you. Maybe you're interested, but ask yourself, is it really worth the price of admission, the extra 3D charge, and the cost of the bag you're going to need to smoke in order to enjoy the movie? Probably not.

Patton Oswalt Cameo2/10
Audience Contempt2/10
Neil Patrick HarrisHates This Franchise

MINORITY REPORT: I have never seen a Harold & Kumar movie, and up until now I was operating under the assumption that the franchise was incredibly progressive for depicting an interracial homosexual couple getting by in modern America. There goes all my interest in catching up on this series. - Ian "Professor Clumsy" Maddison

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