23 December 2011


If we look at the Doctor Who Christmas specials (review of The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe coming on Monday), we can see that even in modern Christmas specials, we can throw out the usual standards and measure a film purely by how festive it was, and how much we enjoyed it. The Harold & Kumar films have consistently been the place where logic and coherence goes out of the window in favour of uproarious hijinks, so you can suppose that A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas goes the same way.

While the second movie picked up minutes after the first, this third instalment actually reunites our less than dynamic duo years after the hard-working Harold has upped sticks, married Maria and generally grown up. Meanwhile, Kumar is still getting high on his couch, while mourning his failed relationship and his expulsion from medical school. Typically, their chance reunion on Christmas Eve sees Kumar accidentally burning down a prized Christmas tree belonging to Harold's father-in-law. The pair must go on one more chaotic adventure to find a replacement and save Harold's family Christmas.

Harold & Kumar Get The Munchies, as it was called in territories where the fast food chain White Castle isn't part of the consumer lexicon, set the tone for this series right off the bat. It cannily subverted any racial stereotypes associated with its leading men, who are Korean and Indian, respectively, and didn't get so tangled up in mocking racism and bigotry that it forgot to be a raucous stoner comedy either. The sequel, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay took an ill-advised swipe at the political climate of the country, and along the way, lost touch with the fact that you have to give jokes to stupid characters, like the Homeland Security nut played by Rob Corddry. Without actual jokes, stupid characters aren't funny, they're just stupid.

But things have changed just as much off-camera as in the actual story of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas- John Cho had a great breakthrough role as Sulu in Star Trek, and Kal Penn got a job at the White House, which is referenced in the new film. Likewise, the gag of having Neil Patrick Harris make regular cameo appearances began when he was most famous for his bit role in Starship Trooper and having starred in Doogie Howser, M.D. Since then, he's become a household name, if not a national treasure of some kind.

Happily, the film keeps the same irreverent level of humour. Another recent 3D three-quel, Jackass 3D, was funnier than its predecessors, mostly because Johnny Knoxville et al were more mature than before, and although they were doing the same old shit, their new outlook on their work kept things fresh and funny. This instalment of the Harold & Kumar series enjoys similar benefits. By developing the characters and having split them up between films, to grow apart, the formula is refreshed. Cho and Penn are reliably likeable, and the series' reconciliation between the fictionalised NPH, apparently shot dead in the first sequel, and the real, family-friendly version is inventive and hilarious.

By now, writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg make no bones about the kind of equal opportunities offensiveness that has been perfected as an art form by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. While I'm fine with that in principle, I should probably defend my position on all those scenes in which an infant takes drugs. Having loathed The Change-Up for its unfunny infant endangerment scenes, can I really give Harold & Kumar a pass for its depiction of a baby that is variously introduced to marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy? Well... yes. I can give it a pass. The Change-Up was never funny, and this film isn't nearly as hopeless or even as mean-spirited.

And of course, a bit of lunacy is par for the course. The effect of drugs on the aforementioned baby is roughly proportionate to something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon, and the nimble succession of comic setpieces carries the film nicely. By now, it's almost so nuts, it's normal. As mentioned, the character development makes our heroes into the likeable anchors within this crazy world. As usual, it's weighted more towards Harold- if your father-in-law was as batshit insane as the brilliantly cast Danny Trejo, you'd probably turn to narcotics too.

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas keeps the consistent ratio of comedy and narrative established since the first film, and is at its best, predictably, when NPH turns up. The 3D looks pretty shoddy, possibly the result of a bad post-conversion, but the jokes about the gimmick of 3D are smart enough that the issue is lampshaded. It's not an instant Christmas classic, but it's packed to the brim with festive lunacy and guilty belly laughs, and it's definitely worth a look if you enjoyed the first two films.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is now showing in 3D (duh) at cinemas nationwide.
If and when you see A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, why not leave a comment below? Merry Christmas to all readers!

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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