Title: A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
So Did You See This Stoned? How dare you? And no, not that it would have helped.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two Wafflebots(TM) out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Stoner buds Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn), now no longer buds, must nevertheless reunite to embark on one last zany, intermittently humorous quest.
Tagline: "Christmas comes prematurely."
Better Tagline: "Should've only agreed to the one sequel, boys."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Harold and Kumar have been estranged for several years, with Harold marrying long-time sweetheart Maria and moving to the 'burbs. Meanwhile Kumar has broken up with Vanessa, dropped out of med school, and is still living in their old apartment. Circumstances bring the two together at Christmas, where Maria's family have gone into town for midnight mass, Kumar inadvertantly destroys Maria's father's beloved fir tree, and the two must obtain another one and decorate it before the in-laws return, all while dealing with Ukrainian gangsters, Claymation monstrosities, and -- of course -- the return of NPH.
Random Notebook Lamentation: "Aw man, not Elias Koteas."
"Critical" Analysis: I guess you could say the third time has no charm.
The first Harold & Kumar was an odd yet surprisingly amusing story about a couple of guys on a THC-fueled quest for sliders. Plus dick jokes. Escape From Guantanamo Bay capitalized on the success of the first film by taking the duo to "exotic" locations (Texas) on their quest to clear their names following detention by the U.S government. Oh, and more dick jokes.
Still, Harold and Kumar were amiable enough dudes -- not sketchy delinquents like Jay and Silent Bob or burned out 'heads like Cheech and Chong -- and their increasingly surreal adventures were at least mildly amusing. Part of that laid-back appeal came from the fact the movies never tried to be more than trifles about a couple of guys who really like getting high.
A Very 3D Christmas, on the other hand, feels like a chore. This is probably because everyone involved was contractually obligated to make three H&K films, and now even though Neil Patrick Harris is once again a TV star and sought after host, Cho hit the big time in J.J. Abrams's Star Trek reboot and Penn got a job in the White House, they all had to come back for another. And it shows.
Sure, the movie's central quest (the duo has to replace Harold's Christmas tree before his in-laws return from midnight mass) is as weightless as the first one, but there's a weariness here. Cho practically grits his teeth the entire runtime, though I guess Penn's distractedness actually does him a service, as it aids his disaffected stoner portrayal. Even David Krumholz, as H&K's old friend Goldstein, looks like they got him out of bed two minutes before he came on set.
But the biggest absence is that of NPH. Oh, he's in the movie, for about ten minutes (not so you'd know from the poster), and is a mere ghost of his former Bacchus. As with Krumholz, he's clearly going through the motions, and may very well have been filming a variety special they just happened to use as a set for the movie.
And the sad part? His scenes are still the funniest in the film.
And if I can step away from the "phoning it in" complaints, I'd also point out that Danny Trejo (playing the father of Harold's wife Maria) is well on his way into Ice Cube Ville. Just like the former NWA-er, Trejo started his movie career playing badasses, and is now in full transition to...well, I'll just leave this here:
But at least there are plenty of dick jokes, which makes the 3D that much more...rewarding. In all honesty, three things in this movie are worth watching, the beginning and ending Santas (Patton Oswalt and Richard Riehle), NPH, and the Wafflebot (an admittedly inspired bit of merchandising lunacy).
Everything is else is either wearying (the hilarity of Kumar blowing 3D smoke at the screen fizzled out the 3rd or 4th time he did it) or frankly inexplicable. I've mentioned before how I apparently missed the boat on penis and rape humor, but a whole series of jokes around a toddler inadvertently getting stoned, X-ed and coked up? What, she couldn't just kick someone in the balls and be done with it?
See It/Rent It/Skip It: Rent it. Maybe. At a spare 89 minutes, it's barely worth getting high for.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is in theaters today. Don't see it stoned. Oh, who am I kidding? You're totally going to see it stoned.