THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR CHRISTMAS"
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas is the third adventure from the popular stoner duo who previously went to White Castle and escaped from Guantanamo Bay. As this movie opens, the two are actually somewhat estranged. Harold (John Cho) is now married to Maria (Paula Garces) and living a very domestic life. His biggest problem is a domineering father-in-law (Danny Trejo) whom he can never seem to please. He wants nothing to do with Kumar (Kal Penn), who has become a wreck, smoking more weed than ever and generally doing nothing. When a mysterious package addressed to Harold arrives at his door, Kumar takes it to his old pal's house, where they have an awkward reunion. Kumar also accidentally sets fire to the special Christmas tree Harold's father-in-law brought for the occasion. In order to avoid a family catastrophe, the two have to find a new, identical tree before everyone else returns from midnight Mass.
It kind of surprises me that I like the Harold & Kumar movies. As a non-smoker, I rarely find drug humor very funny. These films have always relied as much on the chemistry between the two leads as on pot jokes, though. Cho and Penn have an easygoing rapport together; their comic timing is complimentary. Both actors also show the depths of their characters; Harold and Kumar may love weed, but that's not all there is to them. They are also romantics who try to do the right thing in life.
I'm additionally fond of the series' penchant for absurd humor. This time around, the boys end up on the stage of Radio City Music Hall, dancing in the annual Christmas show alongside – who else? - Neil Patrick Harris, who eagerly spoofs his own coming out. At another point, they take some bad drugs and have a violent hallucination, rendered completely in Claymation. Then there's a little thing called the WaffleBot, which figures into the plot in ways I will not reveal. Lots of movies these days shoot for “dumb” humor. These shoot for “knowingly silly,” which I kind of admire.
As with the prior installments, there's not a lot of substance here. It's all just silliness. Much of it worked for me, but some things fell really flat, most notably a fantasy sequence in which Heaven is portrayed as the world's largest nightclub, with Jesus cast as a party boy. When the movie thuds, it thuds hard. Still, the let's find a Christmas tree plot is more in the vein of the original than the outlandish Guantanamo Bay plot was, and the Cho/Penn chemistry remains charming. Plus, NPH! A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas made me laugh enough to warrant a recommendation for other fans of the franchise.
Note: Theatrically, the title of the film was A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. While there is a 3D Blu-Ray on the market, I saw the 2D version. It's always a weird experience watching a 3D movie in 2D. You can tell where things were supposed to pop off the screen. Since the 3D here was intentionally designed to be gimmicky, that attention-calling can get slightly annoying in 2D, but I don't think it's an overall detriment.
( out of four)
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas will be released on DVD and in both 2D and 3D Blu-Ray/DVD combo packs on Feb. 7. An UltraViolet digital copy comes with the pack. The Blu-Ray additionally has two different versions of the movie: the theatrical cut and an extended cut that runs six minutes longer.
The bonus features begin with “Through the Haze with Tom Lennon,” a series of short improvs in which the actor (who plays Harold's nerdy new buddy) riffs on the making of the film, his hot female co-stars, and why A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas is “the 19th greatest Christmas movie ever made.” I've always found Lennon to be a fairly funny guy. Some of his comments are funnier than others, but there are laughs to be had.
“Bringing Harold & Kumar Claymation to Life” is a 5-minute feature that begins with the director talking about the decision to include a Claymation sequence. We then see the storyboards for the scene alongside the final version.
Finally, there are a few minutes of deleted scenes that are amusing, but inconsequential to the plot.
The sound and picture quality on the Blu-Ray is outstanding.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas is rated R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.
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