I have a bizarre affinity for Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. In my second year of college, it was always the movie I would have on in the background while I was doing work, or threw it on as something to fall asleep to as background noise, or threw on when I was having a shitty day, which was eerily frequent. If you add up the bits and pieces I’ve watched here and there, I have seen that movie in its entirety a scary number of times. Perhaps as a result, the sequel was a disappointment. I still liked it but thought it was more hit and miss and I remember thinking they were focusing far too much on the social commentary, which the first movie balanced far better with the comedy. Regardless, I was still excited for the third entry, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.
I’m happy to report that while I can’t say it equals the first, it surprisingly comes pretty damn close.
As opposed to the second movie which began immediately following the events of the first, this one takes place several years later and shows that Harold and Kumar have grown apart, having not actually seen each other in a couple of years. Harold is married to Maria, his girlfriend from the previous films, works at a successful job and is trying for a child. Kumar’s girlfriend has left him and he spends all of his time getting high alone in his shitty apartment. Then circumstances that are in no way grounded in reality bring the two of them together to hunt for a Christmas tree to appease Maria’s father who is obsessed with having a perfect holiday.
The plot is usually just an excuse for the characters to run into a series of events that continue to escalate in insanity and that holds true here. However I was surprised how well the movie handled the distanced friendship between Harold & Kumar. It’s not just glossed over and treated as a quick plot device. It’s a reoccurring issue throughout the movie that is taken seriously and is actually given a few scenes that I perhaps wouldn’t call emotional, but at the very least heartfelt. It’s refreshing that the series actually treats its central characters as real human beings with real problems. Of course what makes the movie really work is that while these true to life feelings are being worked out, they are surrounded with waffle making sentient robots and cocaine addled babies. Therein lies the beauty of Harold & Kumar.
You don’t need me to tell you that you won’t exactly be dealing with high level humour here. These movies are definitely a lot smarter than perhaps people may give them credit for, but at the same time that doesn’t stop them from loading the movie with both real and Claymation cocks, free flying sperm and gunshot wounds to the face. God damn it though it really works. It’s completely juvenile but it’s just so gleeful about it that you can’t help but smile. Other comedies seem to use this type of humour almost as a crutch and it often comes off as just ugly. I think the key is to have main characters that you actually give a shit about. Recent movies like Bridesmaids, Horrible Bosses, and of course this one have pulled this off. Other ones like The Change-up, not so much.
Some jokes definitely do land better than others. There’s an entire subplot involving Harold and Kumar’s new friends being trapped in a closet with a baby who is hopped up on drugs that is funny at first but becomes less and less funny each time they cut back to it. Beyond that though, the jokes are far more hit than miss. Without giving away anything, Neil Patrick Harris once again steals the show but has only a couple of scenes before he departs from the picture. I get that they don’t want the character to overstay his welcome but god damn that NPH is so likable that I easily could have watched him for a while longer. The Claymation sequence that you’ve no doubt seen in the trailers is also a highlight. Danny Trejo as Maria’s father-in-law is also a genius bit of casting and he is great fun to watch every scene he is in. As I said it doesn’t quite hit the comedic heights that the first movie did, but it comes reasonably close and is consistently funny from start to finish, even if some of the scenes only deliver smaller laughs.
I’m not sure if I have ever mentioned my take on 3D here before but for the record I definitely count myself amongst what I imagine must be the majority opinion by now that 3D has had its time and then some. My wife and I usually actively choose to see a 2D showing of a movie except for in very special circumstances such as Final Destination 5 and now, Harold & Kumar. This one intrigued me a little more because the movie is very up front that they also think 3D is a gimmick and that they intend to exploit the shit out of it for being exactly that. This way you don’t get those bizarre attempts to seamlessly integrate 3D effects into the movie by having characters inexplicably shove shit towards the camera every chance that they get. Harold & Kumar takes full advantage of the 3D and is constantly tossing smoke and cocks at you, usually in slow motion to boot. It’s one of the better 3D experiences I’ve had, which is interesting because Jackass 3D also ranks up there amongst the best. It really does seem like the key is to actively treat 3D like a joke and your movie will be all the better for it.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is one of those movies where I can fall back on the classic trope of saying that hey if you liked the others, guess what you will like this one too. I went with a group of people who had never seen the other movies however and they also seemed to have a good time, so I think I can recommend this one to the masses as well. I mean don’t bring your fucking parents or anything but try and get out there and see it as I do think a theatrical 3D showing is the way to go. It’s a bit of a bummer this movie opened like 8 weeks before Christmas as I’m sure by the time people are properly in the holiday spirit this movie will be long gone. Hopefully it makes enough money to stick around because damn it, it deserves it.