A low-brow comedy flick about a pair of hapless potheads may seem like an unlikely candidate for the 3-D treatment. Nonetheless, this recent reunion of actors John Cho and Kal Penn proves that there’s still some life in the so-old-it’s-new-again-but-now-getting-old-again-fast cinematic gimmick, simply by being unpretentious about it.
Picking up several years after the events of its predecessors, “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” starts with the titular duo broken up, the path of their lives having taken them in disparate directions. While Kumar continues his existence as a bloodshot-eyed couch-potato slacker, Harold is now married to Maria, his love interest from the previous films, and lives with her in a picturesque suburban home paid for by a successful job on Wall Street.
Mayhem predictably ensues when Kumar stops by to drop off a package addressed to Harold which was accidentally delivered to the pair’s old apartment, leading to Harold’s family Christmas tree going up in flames. Once again, Harold and Kumar must team up to complete an epic quest, this time to find a new tree before Harold’s holiday-hardliner father-in-law arrives and roasts Harold’s chestnuts over an open fire.
Along the way, our dopey duo will meet up with old friend Neil Patrick Harris (who, as usual, provides the movie’s most memorable moments) while also encountering drugged-out toddlers, pancake-hating robots, merciless Russian mobsters, killer Kaiju snowmen and an imaginary gaggle of naked lesbian nuns with crucifix-shaped patches of pubic hair. Hallelujah!
While this Cheech and Chong-influenced yuletide flick mines a lot of laughs from its crass, R-rated toilet humor and off-the-wall cartoonish absurdity, more of its appeal actually come from a razor-sharp, fourth wall-denting sense of self-awareness, full of perverse nods to Rankin-Bass’ stop-motion classics, the inherent cheesiness of 3-D and Penn’s real-life White House day job.
Surprisingly, this sequel also displays more sentimentality than earlier adventures, revealing the softer side of the stoned in what is essentially a love story between two friends (call it a “bromance,” if you must). Sure, this sappy stuff has been done better elsewhere, but it’s worth smiling through again here because of how likeable these characters really are.
Thankfully, the film quickly becomes less a “bro’s before ho-ho-ho’s” battle cry and more an exploration of that eternal struggle to grow up while staying young at heart, a conflict many “Harold & Kumar” fans who first got into the franchise upon its 2004 debut can no doubt relate to.
“A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” is all about finding a balance between the part of you that thinks 3-D has jumped the shark and the part that wants to see a shark jump out in 3-D, between the part that knows Santa is a fiction and the part that still wants to believe.
A chaotic Christmas comedy for anyone who’s ever wondered if smoking mistletoe can get you high (for the record, no, it can’t), this latest “Harold & Kumar” outing nonetheless has a message that even the bongless can appreciate.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5