A film review by Craig J. Koban November 17, 2011


2011, R, 89 mins.


Kumar: Kal Penn / Harold: John Cho / Himself: Neil Patrick Harris / Mr. Perez: Danny Trejo / Mall Santa: Patton Oswalt

Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson / Screenplay by Jon Hurwtiz and Hayden Schlossberg


To quote its full title, A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS is one of the zaniest, go-for-broke, and merrily raunchy Christmas films that I have ever seen.  I think I mean that as a compliment.  Parts of me, though, are not so sure.  All I know is that – as I critic – I am largely responsible for reporting on what I saw and how I reacted to it.  Well, as for the former, I laughed a lot during A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS (let’s just call it H&K3 from now on), but upon reflection I am a bit ashamed about what I laughed at.  Nonetheless, I laughed consistently, which is to the film’s credit, I guess. 

The film – the third in the series, and most likely not its last – is one that certainly deserves props for…how shall I say it…yuletide originality.  It contains so many firsts for the Christmas film genre that I dizzily lost track after awhile.  This is the only Christmas film that has, in random order: 

A department store Santa Claus that is also a weed dealer out of the trunk of his car

-  The real Santa Claus being accidentally blasted in the head by a shotgun during his Christmas Eve run.  This is also the same Kris Kringle that informs one of the main characters that masturbating in a sock filled with baby powder is perfectly okay.

-  A scene where one character, while ovulating, screams at her husband, “Fuck a baby into me, Harold!”

-  A dream sequence that portrays a party hosted by Jesus Christ in heaven  – flanked by two topless women – that proceeds to get angry and calls his “dad” when the same women sit by Neil Patrick Harris and give him a hand job.

-  A claymation sequence during which cute little squirrels explode and a hot dog vender is ripped to shreds by a giant monster snowman

-  A very young child that gets inadvertently hooked on cocaine, ecstasy, and weed…but not in that order.

-  A fantasy montage that shows lesbian nuns showering with one another.  

A sequence where one character gets something of his that's definitely not his tongue frozen stuck to a frigidly cold pole.

H&K3, as if you needed any more examples, is the most unusual, offbeat, and deliriously outrageous Christmas film in a long while.  It follows in the footsteps of the very funny 2004’s original, HAROLD & KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE, which introduced us to its very likeable duo, the Hindu-America Kumar (Kal Penn, the former HOUSE: MD star and former member of the Obama White House) and the Korean-America Harold (John Cho, who infamously called Stifler’s mom a MILF in the first AMERICAN PIE).  The key to the success of that film was that it celebrated the cultures of its two characters while lampooning them at the same time.  Yes, they were pot-smoking rejects in that film, but Harold and Kumar were also shown as being intelligent and appealing characters.  Perhaps that’s why I found the first sequel, ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY, a bit disappointing: it took those likeable characters and instead of engaging them in some shrewd post-9/11 satire, the film offered up a smorgasbord of crude humor involving bodily fluids. 



That’s not to say that H&K3 is not vulgar, tasteless, and sacrilegious at times (more often than not, it’s all of those at the same time).  Yet, this go around I found its tawdriness to be more of the harmless and amusing variety.  The film also ups the ante in its levels of sheer, inspired lunacy and liveliness.  It mixes good, old-fashioned holiday cheer with debauchery better than I was expecting...and a little NPH goes an awfully long way as well. 

What’s a bit more interesting now is that the series' pair are not BFFs from the get go: at the beginning of H&K3 the once inseparable duo have drifted apart.  Harold is married to Maria (Paula Gross) and has a very well paying Wall Street job, whereas Kumar has dropped out of medical school and has been dumped by his girlfriend Vanessa.  On Christmas Eve Kumar decides to stop by Harold’s to drop off a package that accidentally was delivered to his old apartment that he shared with Kumar, by the visits ends with Kumar accidentally burning down the Christmas tree of Harold’s new father-in-law (a very droll Danny Trejo, having fun with his steely eyed, tough guy image), that spent years growing and nurturing it by hand.  What comes next for the semi-estranged friends is a last minute shopping spree through New York in search of a “12 foot Frazier Fir with excellent branch distribution” before Paula and the in-laws return home from midnight mass.   

This, predictably enough, leads the pair on a series on wacky adventures that involves one particularly nasty interlude with a Ukrainian mobster and, yes, Neil Patrick Harris, who apparently is now immune to death, seeing as he was apparently killed in the last film.  He now works as the lead singer/dancer for a lavish Busby Berkley/Rockettes Manhattan stage show where the openly gay performer explains to Harold and Kumar how he uses his apparent gayness as a front to pick up and score with chicks (a trick he learned from Clay Aitkin).  Harris’ cameo as a satirical version of himself is much shorter this time, but it still generates ample hilarity, especially for how this "character" – as always - still has a libido the size of the Stature of Liberty.  I especially liked what he says when he and the boys part ways: “See you guys in the fourth!” 

The film has other amusing moments: I enjoyed Trejo as the sadistically overprotective father-in-law that relays to Harold a painful personal story as to why he hates Koreans.  The aforementioned Claymation sequence – which is the result of a really bad trip the heroes go on after drinking spiked eggnog – is a wickedly clever send-up of 1960’s holiday TV shows.  Then there is the film’s use of 3D, which really needs to be commented on.  H&K3 is perhaps the very first 3D film ever that both openly mocks the more gimmicky, in-your-face quality of multidimensional films and then joyously utilizes the technology in the most gimmicky, in-your-face manner possible.  Not too many films require 3D at all, but H&K3’s laughs are often primarily derived from it:  it’s exceedingly rare for the oftentimes jarring and headache inducing format to actually add to the film’s enjoyment factor rather than detracting us from it.   

What else could possibly be said about a film called A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS other than to say that it delivers on intended purposes?  I liked it as much as the first HAROLD & KUMAR offering and even more than the second one.  It might perhaps be the more ambitious of all of the entries in terms of its agreeably unrestrained and endless barrage of R-rated ribaldry.  Of course, the film is crude, profane, and has more usages of the notorious f-bomb than any other Christmas film ever, but H&K3 still has a heart buried beneath it bawdy outward façade.  Harold and Kumar, despite their faults and their constant predilection to getting into unmentionable trouble, are still decent-minded and amiable chaps that, deep down, love each other as all hetero-lifemates do in inter-racial bromances.  

 And, trust me, just when you thought you’ve seen everything in 3D on the silver screen, you really haven’t until you see this flick.  Just…believe me.    

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