When the first Harold and Kumar came out in 2004, it was sort of a breath of fresh air from the Apatow comedies that were popular at the time. It was a road picture, it was irreverent, it was determined to make you laugh in any way it could. The manic energy of the two leads, and the fact the entire movie was about making it to a white-castle because your stoned, was the sort of silly concept that really captured the clouded imaginations of stoners everywhere.
The beauty of the Harold and Kumar films is the way in which they find their heart. In the first, their trip to White Castle was a metaphor for self actualization, particularly Harold’s. The second was more doing whatever it takes for the one you love, and this third one is very much about how sometimes we can’t stand the people that are best to have around us.
It’s some years after Harold and Kumar have escaped from Guantanamo Bay. Harold (John Cho) is happily married to the smoking hot Maria, has a nice house, and is trying to start a family. Really the only caveat in Harold’s life is the fact Maria’s family, about a dozen or so Mexican stereotypes, are coming into town for the holidays. Maria’s dad (Danny Treo) is not a big fan of Mr. Harold, letting a variety of racist comments slip out from under his breath. Meanwhile, Kumar is the same stoner he’s always been, just now that he’s in his 30’s this is no longer cute, but actually sort of pathetic. The girlfriend he fought so hard for in the second film, left him, and surprise, is pregnant.
The plot is, as always, is inconsequential, this time revolving around Harold and Kumar desperately attempting to find the perfect Christmas tree to appease Maria’s dad while running afowl of some Russian mobsters, befriending a waffle making robot, and showing us one huge clay-mated wang.
The movie hammers home this sort of ying and yang approach to Harold and Kumar, how Harold keeps Kumar grounded, and Kumar keeps Harold loose and assertive. At one point in the movie Harold explains to Kumar how Maria’s dad is VERY serious about his Christmas tree, and Kumar without hesitation tells Harold to tell Maria’s dad to go take a long walk off a short pier, if you catch my drift. They need each other.
About four years ago I remember a scene in my life a lot like the one that closes this film. On my back porch I shared an herbal cigarette with a close friend on Christmas eve. It had been a weird year. He was dating my ex-girlfriend, I was moving to Chicago, and our lives had grown so different any conversation outside of what video game to play or what type of beer to buy was received with blank looks. I didn’t care about his truck; he didn’t care about my writing. But as we shared a green Christmas in the snow, aware we’d never be the same or able to relate to each other the way we had in the past, at the least, we knew we’d always have doobie.
Thus like that friendship, “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas” Isn’t as fresh as the first two entries in the series and while it still means well, is losing steam. The NPH cameo isn’t quite as epic (but happily plays off his new found success), the set pieces aren’t as elaborate and don’t match the hilarity of the “No Pants” party from the second film, or the delight of the hang glider escape in the first. Heck, the subplot involving Reno 911 alum Tom Lennon, the Amir fellow from Collegehumor.com, and a drugged up toddler takes place almost entirely in a closet.
But ultimately I think this is quality Holiday entertainment. It’s about friends and warmth, and going the extra mile for those you love, and if your friends are a bit too old for Elf, and a bit too…innocent for Bad Santa, I like to this film fits somewhere in between.