Without necessarily meaning to, I have become an expert in Christmas movies.
A book I wrote about them was published last year, and over the last five years or so, I have watched a lot of them. We’re talking a stack of DVDs taller than Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen arranged vertically into an upright Human Centipede.
So trust me when I tell you that “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” will hit most of the buttons you want pressed when you see a holiday movie. It's about the importance of family and friends, the power of Christmas to reunite people who’ve grown apart, and the redemptive power of the season.
It’s also about a giant claymation penis jutting out of the screen in 3D. This is, after all, still a “Harold & Kumar” movie.
This series of stoner comedies has always managed to take political correctness and gross-out humor to staggering heights while maintaining a certain jovial sweetness — even Santa Claus (Richard Riehle) tells Harold and Kumar that they’re basically good boys — and “3D Christmas” pushes the envelope of tastelessness while maintaining a cheery holiday glow.
If you weren’t a fan of their previous outings, it goes without saying that this one won’t be your cup of eggnog either. But if “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” or “…Escape from Guantanamo Bay” gave you the giggles without the assistance of herbal supplements, this deliriously over-the-top adventure will send you to Bowlful-of-Jelly-ville.
Six years after they incurred the wrath of Homeland Security, our heroes are barely on speaking terms. Harold (John Cho) has the kind of Wall Street gig that has earned him the wrath of protesters (this movie’s 99% are egg-throwers, mainly because it looks so cool in 3-D) and wants to impregnate his sexy Latina wife Maria (Paula Garcés). Kumar (Kal Penn), meanwhile, got kicked out of medical school for failing a drug test.
On Christmas Eve, Harold contends with the arrival of Maria’s extended family, including her tannenbaum-obsessed father Mr. Perez (Danny Trejo, wearing an impressive array of hideous holiday sweaters). When a mysterious package for Harold arrives at Kumar’s apartment, he decides to pay his old friend a visit, managing within minutes to destroy Mr. Perez’s tree, sending the two out to find a replacement.
Before the night is over, the duo will incur the wrath of a Russian gangster (Elias Koteas), accidentally expose the infant daughter of Harold’s nerdy pal Todd (Thomas Lennon) to every illicit substance under the sun, dance in full toy-soldier regalia behind a sex-and-drug–crazed Neil Patrick Harris (Neil Patrick Harris), and accidentally shoot Santa out of the sky. You know, just another typical Dec. 24.
Falling somewhere between Laurel & Hardy and Cheech & Chong, Harold and Kumar manage to bumble into things through a breathless combination of bad decision-making and even worse luck. And while the proceedings here are less cannabis-fueled than in previous movies (Harold is laying off the stuff in case it inhibits fertility), the universe continues to deal them one bad hand after another, forcing them to muddle through as best they can.
Cho and Penn continue their breezy, prickly chemistry after all these years — there’s even a throw-away gag about Penn having taken time away from acting to work in the Obama White House — and Harris’ thoroughly debauched “Neil Patrick Harris” character remains as wickedly hilarious as ever. (Since “3D Christmas” is the first of the movies to be made after NPH officially came out of the closet, there’s a great gag involving the actor’s real-life partner, David Burtka, and why he’s really hanging around.)
There’s snow, a musical number, an animated snowman, and a shout-out to “A Christmas Story” — something that’s not a tongue gets stuck to a frozen pole — so there’s no faulting “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” for not sticking to the Yuletide playbook. Think of it as the cinematic equivalent of fruitcake: If you already know you don’t like it, there’s no point in taking a bite, but if you think you’re going to enjoy it, dig in and don’t bother trying to explain why it makes you happy.
Those grinches will never understand.