Deck the Halls with Harold and Kumar
Published on November 16, 2011 by guest author: J.K. Eisen

The holidays have often been the source of some inspired and memorable comedy.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker birthed South Park from The Spirit of Christmas video shorts, which included the infamous smackdown between Jesus Christ and Santa Claus.

The first full-length episode of The Simpsons ever aired was a Christmas special.

And I’ve found that when I ask people about their favorite Christmas movie, I’m more likely to hear A Christmas Story, Elf or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation than It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street.

So it should be no surprise that the Harold and Kumar franchise chose to do a holiday movie when it came time to film the third installment in the popular stoner movie series. They even upped the ante by filming it in 3D.

The result is A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, an irreverent, over-the-top holiday adventure that, despite its flaws, has a rather heartfelt message about the importance of friendship and family.

When the story opens, we learn that Harold and Kumar have grown apart. Kumar, played by Kal Penn, is living alone amid the squalor and marijuana smoke of his apartment following a breakup with his girlfriend. Harold, played by John Cho, has moved on with his life, landing a job on Wall Street, marrying his love, Maria, and settling into the suburbs.

Despite the egg-throwing protestors outside his firm’s office, Harold’s biggest obstacle for a merry Christmas this year seems to be pleasing his intimidating father-in-law, played by the grizzled Danny Trejo of Machete fame. Trejo was an excellent casting choice and the sight of the tough-as-nails actor in a Christmas sweater is great.

The two former buddies are brought together again when a mysterious package addressed to Harold appears on Kumar’s doorstep. Kumar makes the trek to the suburbs to deliver the package, a meeting that ends with Harold’s Christmas tree going up in flames in the living room. But this isn’t just any Christmas tree. This Christmas tree was grown by Harold’s father-in-law over several years and given to the young couple as a gift. It must be replaced. And it must be replaced before Harold’s in-laws and wife return from midnight mass.

At this point, the misadventures begin with the quest to find a replacement Christmas tree. It’s also where the movie truly delights in crossing every boundary of taste and political correctness.

There’s a running joke about a baby getting high.

Santa Claus gets shot in the face.

We see Neil Patrick Harris steal Jesus Christ’s groupies in heaven.

There’s a parody of A Christmas Story’s tongue frozen to a pole scene that pushes the limits of an R-rating while making every man in the theater squirm.

Oh, and did I mention there’s Claymation and 3D too?

The 3D was a draw for me. The prospect of this effect being used in a movie that isn’t an action or horror film intrigued me from the moment I saw the first advertisements. While the film uses it in action sequences as one might expect, it’s also used to good effect for comedy, particularly a scene involving a high-stakes match of beer pong. The 3D effect also ups the raunch factor of jokes involving a body part or bodily fluid.

And, of course, it’s as if the marijuana smoke is right in your face.

I found it far more interesting to watch these 3D effects than the more predictable effects of an action movie using this technology.

As for Neil Patrick Harris, he steals the show during his time on the screen. He didn’t even need the song and dance number to do it. But he has a song and dance number in the movie anyway. Thomas Lennon, best known as Lt. Dangle from Reno 911, also steals some scenes as Harold’s friend, a mousey, suburbanite dad who can’t bring himself to utter a curse word.

It all makes for a wild, funny ride that may be more enduring than 2008’s Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, which as the name implies, was more topical. This latest installment deals with themes of friendship and family that are more enduring, especially against a holiday backdrop.

Yet there are flaws. While I didn’t expect the movie to live up to the standard set by 2004’s Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, I expected more laugh-out-loud moments. There was laughter, giggles, snickering and even audible disgust from the audience at my viewing but the reactions should have been stronger given all the effort that’s being exerted on-screen.

It might be that fans of Harold and Kumar know what to expect. I was able to predict several jokes despite the film’s madcap nature. The saving grace might be the chemistry between Harold and Kumar. Even when the jokes misfire or are simply predictable, you care about these characters. You care about their friendship. You want to see them succeed. And, in the end, that’s a vital ingredient for a holiday movie about the power and importance of friendship – even when it's in 3D.

J.K. Eisen writes about entertainment and the world around him. He lives in the Deep South.

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