Review: A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 16:11
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
Starring John Cho and Kal Penn
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson
When "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" was released in 2004, it became a sleeper hit that morphed into a stoner classic.
It wasn't merely because the jokes hit. It was because of what the film aimed to do: cast an Asian and an Indian as leads in an American comedy; make clear than Asians and Indians can be bad boys, too, and tackle just about every ethnic and race-based stereotype out there through a haze of weed smoke.
Seven years later, stars John Cho and Kal Penn make their return to the big screen as Harold Lee and Kumar Patel in the series' third installment, "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas," and they make it triumphantly.
Missing from this go round is the tired, forced love story and the overplayed Homeland Security angst that dragged 2008's "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay" down. That's replaced with a punchy script from Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg that takes aim at everything from Mexican stereotypes to the misdeeds of Catholic priests.
In between it all, the writers craft in a loving – yes, it's true – homage to classic Christmas films such as "A Christmas Story."
But the most surprising strength of H&K 3 is in its casting. Bobby Lee as Harold's ultra-nerdy assistant, Kenneth Parks; Amir Blumenfeld as Kumar's only remaining "friend," Adrian; and Tom Lennon (best known as Sgt. Daigle in "Reno 911") as Harold's new best friend, the ultra-nerdy, suburban dad, Todd, propel the story forward by giving it a depth previous chapters lacked.
And sure, Neil Patrick Harris is awesome, playing himself (this time even going so far as to play off his real-life homosexuality by pretending it's all a carefully created ruse to lure attractive women in to his dressing room). But best of all is Danny Trejo as Mr. Perez, father of Harold's bride-to-be, Maria (played by Paula Garces).
Trejo's portrayal of a Mexican dad who loves Christmas more than anything else – to the point where he even grows his own tree – and his back story about how Korean gangsters killed his mother on Christmas Eve, ties H&K3 together, making it completely believable that Harold would go to the lengths he does to save his family's Christmas.
No one would want to be on the wrong side of that guy, especially if you're trying to marry his daughter.
But, of course, that's exactly what happens.
When Mr. Perez shows up with his family to spend Christmas at Harold's beautiful suburban home (Harold is now a successful Midtown banker who's sworn off the ganja), Harold tries his best to impress.
Within minutes after Perez and his family leave to take in some Christmas traditions, Kumar shows up carrying a package for Harold that arrived at their old apartment.
In short order, Kumar sets the homegrown Perez tree on fire with a rogue, still-lit joint; and a quest is born. Harold and Kumar must replace and decorate that tree – a rare type of which only one or two may exist in the whole city – before the family returns.
The adventure takes them to all sorts of zany places – they end up in a Nutcracker routine with NPH, they defile a Catholic church, they crash a Ukranian mobster's daughter's Christmas party and in the process get a baby high on cocaine and ecstasy.
Hell, they even shoot down Santa with a shotgun blast to the forehead.
Amid all this, director Strauss-Schulson uses 3D effectively – with tongue firmly in cheek. We get marijuana smoke wafting off the screen; a giant, phallic candy-cane being waved around in our faces and lots of other gimmicky stunts that marked the early 3D horror films of decades past. It really works.
Yes, it's crazily offensive. Yes it's seriously crude. But you know what else? It's also really funny. And, in the Christmas spirit, oddly heartwarming, too.