Dir. by Todd Strauss-Schulson - 1 hr. 30 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
What a disappointment. There's no other way to sum up "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas." I'm speaking as someone who enjoyed the previous two films, and was looking forward to seeing this one. And instead of getting another hazy installment in the "Harold & Kumar" franchise, I got characters that bore little resemblance to their previous incarnations and a general tone of joylessness.
Harold's (John Cho) married, and his in-laws are visiting. They're headed up by Mr. Perez (Danny Trejo), who has an implausible obsession for Christmas trees. Of course, something happens to the tree that Mr. Perez brings, and Harold has to replace it by the time the Perez clan returns from whatever the heck it is that they're doing. Separately, Kumar's (Kal Penn) girlfriend has broken up with him because his life's fallen apart. And it's Christmas-time. The plot isn't worth much more discussion than that.
Here's one problem: the filmmakers seemed to put together a checklist of things that had been in the previous two films, and then jammed them all together, and set it on Christmas eve. An irrational quest for a macguffin? Check. Graphic male nudity? Check. Those two guys that were in the first "American Pie" with John Cho? Check. White Castle cameo? Check. NPH sequence? Check. There's even a gratuitous claymation sequence when the two main characters are drugged, but nothing comes of it. Nothing comes of any of it. The characters' motivations are suspect, which undermines any sense of urgency the plot is trying to convey.
Let me put it this way: in the first film, Harold and Kumar had a hankering for some White Castle burgers, and would not be deterred. I think everyone can relate to that. In the second one, they had to escape Guantanamo Bay because of a mix-up that left everyone thinking they were terrorists. If not relatable, it's at least understandable. Here, Harold is trying to please his father-in-law's hard-on for Christmas trees. Even though there's a "I genuinely want to make him and my wife happy" speech, it's kind of spineless. A lot of the potential audience for this film is not going hope that Harold and Kumar can come through, they're going to want Harold to throw his middle finger in Mr. Perez's face and tell him to eat a bag of dicks.
But beyond that problem, both of the characters are off, tone-wise. Harold has always been kind of neurotic and freaked out, but in this installment they throw in being beaten-down by a less-than-ideal family life. And his replacement best buddy, Todd (Thomas Lennon), clearly irritates Harold. Kumar is even worse. Whatever charm and energy Kal Penn brought to the character is completely gone. He's been bounced out of the medical profession by failing a drug test (which removes the possibility of a bright future), and he's introduced in this film mired in depression from his girlfriend breaking up with him. He's not funny, he's not impulsive, and throughout the film, Kumar barely registers the environments that he's in. It's fine to have the film start off with the main characters being estranged, but it takes entirely too long to for them to re-unite, and when they do, it's in an unsatisfying manner. Even the NPH sequence isn't as good as the previous ones (although still pretty good), and even worse, it's not even a satisfying stoner movie, either. Harold largely abstains, and Kumar seems to be smoking out of a compulsion rather than for any enjoyment it might bring him. This feels like a betrayal, like the "Family Guy" episode where Brian manages to legalize marijuana, only to begin campaigning against it when someone essentially pays him to.
I actually had to stop the movie when watching it about an hour in, I was so bored by the whole thing. It didn't really feel like anyone was having a good time making this movie, and that showed up on-screen. And I should mention that while it claimed to be a ninety-minute film, there's about ten minutes of credits at the end. I can't remember being this let-down by any sequel of any film I've ever seen, and that's saying something. Maybe part of the problem was seeing a Christmas movie in June (related point - why would anyone release a Christmas movie to home video in the summer? That's psychotically bad scheduling), but I don't think seasonal appropriateness nor the appropriate lack of sobriety could help "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" out. It's just a flat-out failure.
.5 / 5 - Blu-Ray