There might just one thing more challenging than reviewing a film like The Tree of Life: Reviewing a movie like A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas. That’s not a poor attempt at a joke either. For starters, how do you criticize something for being so inane and stupid when it actually aspires to be just that? I tell you, it’s a mission. Regardless, it’s my duty to report on the quality of the film in question rather than write my petty first world problems into the review like Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation, so here goes…
Not that I follow the stone comedy genre keenly, but I believe Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle may have been the defining stoner film of the first decade of the 2st century. Pretty high praise huh? Not really, considering your main competition is Dude Where’s My Car? and Grandma’s Boy. Still, that’s not a knock on the comedy which impressively balanced raunchy humor and smart screenwriting while also addressing racial stereotypes and prejudices in American society without being too blatant about it. Its sequel, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay while not as funny, still managed to provide the raunchiness in spades while being more direct about the ridiculous racial profiling in America. However, the ridiculous factor was amped up significantly, losing sight of the simplicity that made the original such a fun ride.
In A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg once again up the zany factor – throwing the duo into even more outrageous situations – from a twisted rendezvous with Santa Claus to becoming wanted by the Russian mafia to a running joke where a baby keeps popping one recreational drug after the next. The insanity swells to the point where the film may as well have been a fantasy movie. Once again, the duo crashes into Neil Patrick Harris who remains the series’ highlight (there’s a hilarious back-story as to how he survived his fate from the previous film). All of this is fine and dandy and I would have had a better time if it weren’t so damn redundant. Though both John Cho and Kal Penn remain very appealing leads, their shtick has become stale and most of the jokes feel forced rather than fluid. Furthermore, the plot – which revolves around the pair’s search for a suitable Christmas tree that’ll replace Harold’s tough father-in-law (Danny Trejo)’s priceless family tree after Kumar burns it down – isn’t as interesting as those of the previous two films.
The Christmas setting is cute but it doesn’t add much to the appeal. That would make the addition of 3D, the only reason to pay top dollar to see the film. And it’s here where A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas truly delivers. Director Todd Strauss-Schulson implements quite a few clever uses of the 3D gimmick which played extremely well with the audience I saw the film with – a quarter of whom were most certainly high off their rockers. A claymation sequence in particular was extremely impressive. But when 3D is the most interesting aspect of your film, it doesn’t merit a recommendation.