A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas

31 Jan

Title: A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
Year: 2011
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Writers: Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, based on their own characters
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Danneel Harris, Paula Garcés, Elias Koteas, Patton Oswalt, Thomas Lennon, Eddie Kaye Thomas, David Krumholtz, Danny Trejo, RZA
MPAA Rating: R, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence
Runtime: 90 min
IMDb Rating: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Metacritic: 61


I like the Harold & Kumar movies quite a lot, I think it soars higher than its stoner comedy boundaries, and John Cho and Kal Penn are awesome in the titular roles, not to mention these are the films that did a lot for Neil Patrick Harris’ resurgence in the zeitgeist. Harld & Kumar Go to White Castle was released in the summer of 2004, made for $9 million, and even though it wasn’t a massive commercial success, making about $24 million, it became something of a cult-ish movie and four years later we got Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, made for a slightly higher $12 million, but this time making over $43 million at the box office and an added $24 million from DVD sales, even though it wasn’t as great quality-wise as the first one.

Now we get the third film by the duo, done in a hiatus from Kal Penn’s work as Associate Director at the White House Office of Public Engagement for the Obama administration, and it’s by far their most ambitious outing to date, and actually a step up from the second entry in the franchise. Not to mention that, this being their Christmas spectacular and all, we actually get a rather sweet kind of movie in the midst of all the highly raunchy and offensive moves these guys are known for, which is as hit-and-miss as always, but still pretty hilarious most of the time. If people start saying this too offensive or too crude, well, they’d be right, but it’s your fault for going into a Harold & Kumar movie in the first place, a baby covered in cocaine is a sight that’s bound to happen in their crazy little world of a ninety minute movie that’s made out of one ridiculous set piece after the other.

These guys are like the 21st Century’s Cheech & Chong, characters who have found their niche, their target audience, and the filmmakers here are smart enough to know who that target audience is and are more than happy to provide exactly what they want. It’s a film that’s all about the excesses their target audience wants from it, one that knows the sight of Danny Trejo ejaculating all over a Christmas tree will have them roaring in laughter, and one that knows the people who watch this film have an opinion of Neil Patrick Harris that’s certainly not Barney Stinson-like. Sex, drugs and claymation, all in 3D, people want this, and they’re gonna get it.

The film opens six years after the first sequel, and Harold seems to be really well-off, having the wife, the house and the great job at Wall Street. Kumar is still pretty much the same, the stoner he’s always been. And they haven’t really spoken to each other much since the second film, each going after very different paths in life, but those paths are about to intersect after a package for Harold arrives at Kumar’s door. If the first quest these two friends embarked on, to get some White Castle hamburgers, was insanely epic and full of really bizarre scenarios, then you can count that the one they embark on this time, to find a replacement for a great Christmas tree that Harold told his father-in-law (played by the aforementioned Mr. Trejo) he’d take care of, will be every bit as kooky. The quest sticks to the formula these guys are known for, and it wants to shock and it wants to be excessive, but why fix what’s not broken, this is all these characters and their fans need.

I don’t want to spoil every single crazy situation we get to witness in this film, those are for you to discover on your own, all I’ll say is that if you were a fan of the first two films, you’ll be a fan of this one, and if you weren’t, well, then this one won’t be your particular cup of tea either. Personally, I love the antics presented on screen by these guys, I think you don’t have to be a stoner to appreciate stoner comedy, nor do you have to be one to appreciate how awesome Neil Patrick Harris is at playing this insane fictionalized version of himself that proposes that the actor’s real-life homosexuality is but a front to hide his sexual depravity, you just know Mr. Harris is having a helluva lot of fun playing such a crazy version of himself, not to mention that this time around he gets to do a seasonal song-and-dance number that’s pretty neat.

I give A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas a very recommending grade, it’s a third film that improves upon the second one, and it’s just seriously entertaining and surprisingly sweet. It proves that these guys are here to stay, that their brand of comedy and knack for being excessive are justifiable when you watch just how awesome the end product is. And I truly don’t know what these guys would have to do in order to top themselves if a fourth film is ordered, but I do know that I’ll be first in line to see it if it ever comes to be.

Grade: B+


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