Warner Bros. // 2011 // 95 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 7th, 2012
They're back just in time for the holidays.
You say you love Christmas and everything it stands for, BUT you also love smoking weed and gags involving your testicles. Sadly, you've never been able to figure out how to reconcile those two diametrically opposed passions...until now. Because now you have A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas!
In the years since Harold (John Cho, Star Trek) and Kumar's (Kal Penn, Superman Returns) previous outing, the two men have grown apart and taken different paths. Harold is now living in the suburbs with his wife, while Kumar is still a heavy druggie shirking responsibility even after his ex-girlfriend informs him she's pregnant with his child. When Harold's stern father-in-law, Mr. Perez (Danny Trejo, Machete), blows into town with extended family to celebrate the holidays, he is disappointed in Harold's fake Christmas tree and forces him to replace it with a tree he grew himself. At the same time, Kumar finds a package at his door addressed to Harold and decides to drop it off at his house. When Harold opens the package they discover a giant doobie inside, which in turn thrusts our heroes into a wild adventure involving angry gangsters, babies on crack, and the search for a brand new Christmas tree!
The Harold & Kumar franchise caters to a very specific group of people, mainly stoners and fans of comedy featuring gross-out gags and sexual innuendo. These two groups were sufficiently happy with 2004's Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle (awesome product placement, if I've ever seen it) and 2008's Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, which meant a third sequel was inevitable. The question was: where do they go from here? The holidays, of course. Thus A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas was born, in 3D no less (*sigh*).
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas made me laugh in spite of myself. It's a movie that's very self aware -- in-jokes about Kal Penn working at the White House and John Cho's role in Star Trek abound -- and takes itself about as seriously as one might expect from a movie that features a bounty of sex and drug jokes (three words: naked nuns showering) and eggs thrown at the screen for no reason other than a show of 3D.
This is not a Christmas movie you're going to want to watch with your grandmother, parents, girlfriend, or pastor. The film is about as tasteful as a Russ Meyer production. At one point we get a claymation sequence (ala the classic Rankin/Bass holiday specials) where Kal Penn's character whips out a gigantic clay penis. Why? I have the feeling the filmmakers asked, "Why not?" Race and religion are skewered at every turn; neither Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Christians, or homosexuals are spared.
Admittedly, Kal Penn and John Cho are no longer young twentysomethings, making an appearance in pot smoking adventure dubious at best. A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas tries to have it both ways by pointing out how old the two actors are (Harold is married and trying to have kids) while still surrounding them with Cheech & Chong style humor. Kal's flippant one liners mostly work, though the actor is starting to just look like chunky grown man in a little kid's body. John comes off better as the (mostly) responsible Harold, a master of the frustrated slow burn. It's also a bit fun to watch character actors like Elias Koteas as an ethnic mob boss and Danny Trejo (especially funny throwing deadpan looks at the camera) as Harold's painfully difficult father-in-law.
Not surprisingly, the man who steals the show is Neil Patrick Harris (Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog), returning as a fictionalized and obnoxious version of his real life self. When you think about it, NPH's role here is a bit genius; a guy with a deeply funny self-deprecating sense of humor who doesn't come off as a buffoon. It's hard not to laugh at a real life gay man pretending to be a gay man pretending to be a straight man in a fictional movie. The fact that Harris's partner David Burtka shows up in the film makes the gag even funnier.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas moves into some very strange places on the way to its conclusion, including the lead characters being tied up, doused with gasoline, and rescued by a robotic waffle making Christmas toy while a little girl high on cocaine takes on a psychotic gangster. This is all before Harold shoots Santa Claus in the face and takes over his sleigh. That should tell you what kind of movie going experience you're in for. The movie was shot and presented theatrically in 3D, which is both a trapping and a blessing; while I liked the way it utilized 3D effects to cheesy effect in theaters (much like 2010's Piranha 3D) it tends to look gimmicky and rather ridiculous when viewed in 2D at home.
As far as holidays movies go, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas never comes close to classic status. For those looking for a change from the ten thousandth rerun of A Christmas Story or It's a Wonderful Life, it's an amusing aside, but I doubt it will be a perennial favorite a decade down the line. Even so, it's a fun little trip for the demented elf in us all.
Viewers take note: Stereotypes abound, as the film struggles to be as offensive as possible. A version of Jesus Christ shows up with two naked women, and you wouldn't see this much pot smoke if a field of cannabis caught fire. Anyone looking for a positive Christmas message need not apply.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (Blu-ray) is presented in 2.40:1/1080p high definition widescreen. The transfer looks sharp, tight, and excellent, with no noticeable activating or noise reduction. The colors (there are a lot of them, considering the holiday theme) and black levels look great, and there's the thinnest layer of grain from its film stock that gives the movie a nice filmic appearance.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sounds excellent, featuring classic holiday songs, weird sound effects, and a lot of wafting pot smoke. The effects, music, and dialogue pour out of both the front and rear speakers with much frequency. I don't have any complaints about this mix, as it pretty much bombards the senses from start to finish.
Bonus features include the original theatrical cut (the extended/unrated version gives us six extra minutes), some funny but short featurettes hosted by comedian Thomas Lennon ("I'm Doing a Puff Piece Over Here," "I Hate Drugs," "F#*@ You, Charles Dickens," "I'm Just Brainstorming Here," "The Marshmallow Man," and "19th Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told"), a look at the claymation portion of the film, a few deleted scenes, DVD and digital copies.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas is amusing but insubstantial, making for a good selection during the holidays when the spiked egg nog is liberally flowing.
Guilty of bringing shame and laughs upon the holly jolly holiday.
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Theatrical Cut
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* Official Site