Harold and Kumar end up on naughty and nice list with '3-D Christmas'
I don't think Frank Capra has much to worry about with "A Very Harold and Kumar 3-D Christmas," as this third film in the stoner franchise is of no threat to supplanting "Its a Wonderful Life" as a Yuletide cinematic staple anytime in the near future.
Though for fans of the darker edge of holiday fare (think "The Ref," or "Bad Santa"), it will fit nicely under the tree, putting the "merry” in marijuana.
The pot-loving pals have not been together the better part of the decade, and much has changed with time. Harold (played by John Cho) has shed his stoner past, opting for a buttoned-up life as a family man and a quiet suburban existence. Kumar (played by Kal Penn) has spiraled in the opposite direction, still living life by the bong, rudderless and pining for the hazy days of young adulthood.
Though the two have not spoken in years, both their worlds are about to be blindsided with change, which causes them to accidentally reunite. For Harold, it's the arrival of his in-laws, who take the Christmas holiday with a rigid fervor. It does not help matters that his father-in-law is played by none other than Machete himself, Danny Trejo.
And Kumar gets news that his former flame is with child, news greeted with joy and fear, but ultimately causing him to seek shelter in a shroud of smoke.
Of course, all of this is merely a setup to bring the two together for another episodic series of misadventures. They are tenuously tied, all bent on skewering traditions that mark the holiday before succumbing to the familiar Yuletide trappings. Some fall buzz-killingly flat (their respective newfound friends -- Thomas Lennon and Amir Blumenfeld -- are surprisingly stilted every time they appear on screen), but many more offer non-sequitur laughs at its random silliness.
And as the case in all "Harold & Kumar" films, the crown jewel is Neil Patrick Harris, playing "himself" as a drugged-up hetero sex fiend. Harris not only provides the film with its best intro (he emerges from an all-female chorus line from a dubious angle with a devilish grin), he infuses a manic energy that gives the picture its biggest laughs.
Both Cho and Penn slide back into their roles after their professional lives have taken them to wildly divergent places (Cho is now part of the newly formed "Star Trek" crew, and Penn has been working at the White House). It also helped that screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are more clear-eyed with this sequel than with 2008's buzz kill "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay."
They realize that the core of the "Harold & Kumar" films is, despite the ribald revelry, there is a genuine affection shared between its leads, a lesson that could have learned by the recent slew of supposedly raunchy comedies, such as "Bad Teacher," and "The Change-Up."
And like the "Jackass" film released earlier this year, they realize that the 3-D trend is a wheezing gimmick, both jokingly chiding it while using it to its best nonsensical effects.
If possible, "Harold & Kumar" will both simultaneously end up on Santa's "naughty" and "nice" lists.