We’ve reached this point, have we Harold and Kumar? The point where you begin to run out of jokes and have to resort to making fun of yourselves? You know, this self-aware turn better just be a faze, or you and I will have to be done with one another. I don’t know if I could handle another A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. I mean, you’re still a funny movie, but doing it more than once wouldn’t work, and you were already running out of jokes by the end of your 90 minutes.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is the third film in the Harold and Kumar series, following up from Go to White Castle and Escape from Guantanamo Bay. We return to the first film’s ambitions, at least, with the two characters of the title driving around town in hopes of finding something. In this case, it’s a Christmas tree. Why? Well, it’s Christmas, and Harold (John Cho), desperately wants to impress his father in-law (Danny Trejo), because otherwise his marriage to Maria (Paula Garcés) might not possibly work out. Or something. Really, it’s not made clear why. Make your own conclusions.
Harold and Kumar (Kal Penn) actually hadn’t seen each other for a while, prior to the film’s opening. Harold moved out, got married, and settled down, hoping to raise a family. Kumar decided that smoking weed was way more fun, which led to him breaking up with Vanessa (Danneel Harris), who reveals herself to be three months pregnant in one of the opening scenes. After burning down the tree Harold already had — which was brought to him by Maria’s father — Kumar and Harold reluctantly team up to track down a new one on Christmas Eve.
You can only imagine the trouble that these two get into this time around. They’re not strangers to misbehaving, despite being people presumably in their thirties, but some of the things they do or get into in this film top both of the previous ones. This includes, but is not limited to: getting involved with Russian gangsters, being attacked by a giant snowman while in claymation mode, and shooting Santa Claus in the face with a shotgun.
The whole thing is in 3D, which the characters repeatedly make fun of during the film. Despite this, the filmmakers show off as much of the technology as they can, causing a major contradiction in philosophies. You can’t have it both ways, movie. You can’t condemn the audience for buying tickets to a 3D movie and then be a 3D movie which needs as many ticket sales as it can get. At least they filmed it in 3D, which means no awful conversion had to be performed, but it’s all gimmicks and there’s no reason to see it in 3D.
Most of the humor of the previous films came from subverting stereotypes and tropes, making you laugh by pointing out what you expect based on certain circumstances or characteristics. That’s all but gone in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. It’s mostly just toilet and stoner humor this time around. In the other films, the Russian gangster would probably wind up being a gentle guy, or something like that. Not here. This not only makes this film less humorous, but also less poignant. It doesn’t have a point to make; it exists simply to make money and maybe provide some laughs.
This time around, Neil Patrick Harris, who had a small but funny role in the previous two films, is getting a lot of the advertising. It makes sense. His popularity has exploded in recent years. His role isn’t really expanded, though — it’s the same thing he did before. Quite honestly, I’m getting tired of the character. He plays a fictionalized version of himself that is always high on drugs, and there hasn’t been any progression for three films now. Perhaps it’s time to do something different with him.
This might be the problem with the franchise as a whole: it has finally gotten stale. Without the sharpness to the humor, it’s just another profane comedy, which are a dime a dozen nowadays. It hasn’t evolved with the time, despite reaching for self-parody with this installment. If a fourth film happens, something special is going to have to occur to keep it fresh. Change the formula, have these characters actually acquire more than artificial depth — something!
I did like seeing John Cho and Kal Penn return, even if their characters aren’t quite the same buddy-buddy that they were in earlier films. They still have an easygoing chemistry and know the jokes well enough that they could execute them without a lot of effort. Cameos from Elias Koteas and Patton Oswalt were also quite fun, even if there was really no reason for them. As is the case in all three films, Paula Garcés disappears for the entirety of the second act; this is a film about the two males, after all, and there’s no room for a woman while they mess around.
It’s another Harold and Kumar flick, and if you aren’t tired of them after the second, you’ll still probably have a decent time with this one. It’s lacking a certain sharpness to its tongue, though, and despite the self-parody turn, it gets stale very quick. I didn’t have an awful time with it, but it’s the worst in the series so far and an indication that it might be time to put these characters to rest.