Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas / *** (R)

Harold: John Cho
Kumar: Kal Penn
Todd: Tom Lennon
Adrian: Amir Blumenfeld
Maria: Paula Garcés
Mr. Perez: Danny Trejo
Mary: Jordan Hinson
Sergei Katsov: Elias Koteas
Baby Ava: Hannah Cross
Neil Patrick Harris: Neil Patrick Harris

New Line Cinema presents a film directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson. Written by Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg. Running time: 90 min. Rated R (for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence).

As I walked into “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas”—the only guilty pleasure movie for which I can remember feeling such high (wink, wink) anticipation—the guy handing out the 3D glasses says to me with obvious disdain, “Do you like Harold & Kumar?” I told him I enjoyed the previous two movies in the franchise. “I just don’t get their humor, and they just go way over the top in this one,” he says. Well, I believe that’s the only point in making a 3D Christmas movie that follows the Christmas Eve exploits of every stoner’s favorite stoners. And, boy does this one deliver.

While I enjoyed the first two “Harold & Kumar” movies, the second slightly more than the first, this one proves the third time is the charm. Or maybe it proves that anything is possible with the holidays; because this time the creators of this most unlikely of movie franchises have the very specific target of holiday movies on which to focus all of their outrageous energies. Roger Ebert suggest a title revision in his review of the movie, “A Very R-Rated Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas”. It’s been a while since an R-Rating was earned with such vigor.

From the opening moments when the cliché Christmas movie soundtrack rings in the happy holiday tidings as Kumar blows 3D smoke rings into the camera with a department store Santa (comedian Patton Oswalt in a cameo), it’s obvious that this is going to be a very special holiday movie indeed. The filmmakers quickly establish that this will take every treasured family moment of the holiday season and trash it with brash vulgarities and obscene behavior. Kumar verbally assaults a line of children waiting to tell Santa their Christmas wishes with language that would make Will Ferrell blush even when he’s not in “Elf”.

As we open on Christmas Eve, we find that Kumar (Kal Penn, “House, M.D.”) and Harold (John Cho, “Star Trek”) haven’t seen each other in quite some time. Kumar is still living the stoner high life, although he must settle for his loser neighbor, Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld, of “Jake and Amir” fame), as a companion. Adrian’s Christmas Eve plans include hooking up with an attractive girl who has solicited sex from him online.

Harold has moved on to Christmas garland greener pastures, settling into family life with his wife, Maria (Paula Graces, “The Shield”). He and Maria have been trying to get pregnant and the pressure is really on because her whole family has come to visit for the holidays. It was a stroke of genius to cast tough guy Danny Trejo (“Machete”) to play Harold’s father-in-law, not just because he’s so intimidating, but because his character is so relentlessly obsessed with the holiday traditions of Christmas. Trejo is just about the only man in Hollywood who could wear a Christmas Tree knit sweater and still look like he might be able to kill you with his pinky.

A package arrives for Harold at Kumar’s apartment, and Kumar decides to break the silence between the two former friends and bring the gift to Harold in person. As these things go in movies like this, soon the two find themselves at the home of a Russian gangster, where they are trying to take his Christmas tree to replace the one Maria’s father grew himself before a lit joint burned it down. They must replace the tree before the family gets back from Christmas Mass. Do I need to tell you that the gangster (Elias Koteas, “The Thin Red Line”) walks in just as the daughter is trying to have sex with an unwilling Harold?

There is not much I can tell you about the plot of this movie that is going to sell you on seeing it for the rather funny entertainment that it is, because it treads the line of absurdity to ridicule all the absurd elements we’ve come to expect in holiday entertainment. The story does feature the unlikely return of Neil Patrick Harris as Neil Patrick Harris. Did you think seeing him gunned down in “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay” would stop him from appearing in this H & K? He still appears on “How I Met Your Mother” every week.

Nothing is sacred in this movie. Even Harold’s dull neighbor Todd (Tom Lennon, “Reno 911!”) gets mixed up in their hijinks with his baby daughter in tow. This kid ends up having terrible things done to her, and somehow they’re funny. There’s also a sequence that takes place in the claymation animated style popularized by such Christmas television classics as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. One of the Jewish friends from the previous movies has converted to Christianity for the perks. And of course, Santa shows up for some tradition trashing as well.

As the title states, even the third dimension isn’t safe from Harold & Kumar stoner craziness. Todd Strauss-Schulson throws just about everything he can at the audience with his 3D direction. From the aforementioned smoke rings to Occupy Wall Street demonstrators egging executives, from beer pong to phallic candy canes in a Christmas musical extravaganza number, the filmmakers take every opportunity they can to remind you of the 3D craze that has taken over Hollywood. They’re also happy to remind you how it’s all pretty much a gimmick to make you shell out more money for a movie.

Now, I realize that “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” is not for everyone, least of all people who hold Christmas tradition and everyday taste as standards that cannot be mocked. It is way over the top, as described by the scornful movie theater usher. If you don’t get why it’s so over the top, you won’t understand anything about this movie. If, on the other hand, you do understand the humor behind two ethnic Americans who just want to get to White Castle because they have the munchies and they can’t seem to get there, you will enjoy just about every Yule tiding in “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas”.

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