If A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Chistmas does anything—and part of its charm is that it so effectively does nothing—it’s that it finally, definitively unseats 1953’s The House of Wax from its throne as the King of 3D Sight Gags. No matter how many skulls Nicholas Cage threw at the screen, no matter how many detached, piranha-bitten penises were floated my way, it was going to take Hollywood’s best shot to top House of Wax‘s paddleball master, paddling his ball in all three dimensions as Vincent f’n Price commented on the utter banality of the gimmick. Whereas most 3D films, including the aforementioned Drive Angry and Pirhanna—those being the modern standard-bearer for the use of 3D in ways unpretentious—have failed in their responsibility both to prove Price wrong and justify the ludicrous, attendance-killing practice of charging an extra matinee ticket for low culture films and a dimmer picture. Not A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. It lives in the third dimension, where protesters huck 3D eggs, Catholic priests have 3D teeth punched out of their 3D mouths, and Danny Trejo—playing Harold’s disgruntled, Christmas-loving father-in-law—ejaculates onto an eight-foot Douglas Fir tree because otherwise how would you know if the 3D surcharge was really worth it?
Stuck a mash-up of every sitcom episode where a group of buddies set out to save Christmas, Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) find each other at opposite ends of the spectrum. Harold’s now a married, successful business man with lame, white friends, whereas Kumar is single, alone, and buying weed from a mall Santa. They’re brought together again by a mystery package containing a gigantic joint that sets Harold’s father-in-law’s prized Christmas tree on fire. To save Christmas (I resisted the urge to type that in all caps), Harold, Kumar, Kumar’s pervert friend Adrien (Amir Blumenfeld), and Harold’s squarish “friend” Todd (Thomas Lennon), who, by bringing along his toddler daughter, will surely win Father of the Year. As you can probably guess, the plot doesn’t really matter in a movie like A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. When something happens outside the parameters of rescuing Christmas, it’s either to poke fun at the cheap commercialism of the season (Wafflebot, perhaps the best fake movie toy since Turboman), or, ironically, to cash-in on some easy product placement (the Russian mafia…playing Mafia Wars).
The above is a no-frills plot summary, but I’ve got to admit, reviewing A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is hard. And pointless. The movie, like many comedies, practically gives itself to you through the trailer and previews, spoiling all of the best humor not involving penises in a vain attempt to draw attention to a Christmas movie that, for some reason, was released in early November. The list of things name-checked by the previews is rather impressive: Rankin-Bass claymation Christmas specials, stoned children, Chrismas in New York City, holiday TV specials, violence towards Santa, Jesus Christ, Neil Patrick Harris (even his best sight gag is in the trailer), marijuana, 3D, Wafflebot, and, jeez, even one of the film’s two big dick jokes (there’s no way to write around that). Odds are that something there appeals to you, and, obviously, your mileage will vary. Me, I like Rankin-Bass, New York Christmas movies, Neil Patrick Harris, the gleefully ridiculous usage of 3D as a gimmick, and the idea of a robot that makes and serves waffles. I wish A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas had been released closer to the holiday it lampoons, as it would have made for effective counter-programming to Spielburg and Scorsesse’s 3D children’s films and whatever Arthur Christmas is, but, for whatever reason, it’s here…and it’ll be back on DVD in time for Christmas (or Easter) next year, returning to taunt me with visions of Wafflebots, dancing in my head.
The major let-down here is that, for however crazy those elements sound in my head, put together on screen they don’t do anything to push boundaries or get subversive. The shoehorned-in Neil Patrick Harris sequences are edgy when he’s using his presumed homosexuality to take advantage of the dancers in his TV special, but beyond that, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is a surprisingly warm-hearted, holiday-themed victory lap. It’s enjoyable enough, but, like the 32-inch 3D HDTV that promises to make Avatar look Avatarded, the movie is a little too lifeless, the bow topping it off a little too neat.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. Directed by Todd Strauss–Schulson. With John Cho (Harold), Kal Penn (Kumar), Neil Patrick Harris (Neil Patrick Harris), Thomas Lennon (Todd), Amir Blumenfeld (Adrien), and Danny Trejo (Mr. Perez). Released November 4, 2011, by Warner Bros.