Review by Matt Barone (@MBarone)
Three years removed from the stoner comedy sequel’s release, it’s become even harder to apologize for the mediocrity of Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. At best, the second accidental excursion with John Cho and Kal Penn is one of those so-so comedies that’s amusing enough to warrant a random viewing on cable television; yet, looked at without such optimism, the politically minded Guantanamo Bay pales in every comparison to 2004’s still-brilliant Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, the unlikely franchise’s third film, is, thankfully, back on track with White Castle. Written by the series’ creators, and authors of all three entries, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, Harold and Kumar’s Yuletide misadventures sizzle with newfound wit and a reinvigorated sense of reckless abandon, no doubt inspired by their decision to go operate within three dimensions. Give credit to first-time director Todd Strauss-Schulson for executing one of the few 3D flicks that actually makes good work of its technological format—there’s something to be said about a movie that blows powdered cocaine at its audience (with "White Christmas" as a soundtrack), after dousing a cute little girl with so much of the hard white that she crawls on walls Spider-Man-style.
Hurwitz and Schlossberg also wisely push the storyline up six years, rather than continuing things immediately after the previous film’s ending, a la Guantanamo Bay. It’s six years later, and Kumar is a chubby, bearded waste of space, having dropped out of medical school and broken up with his girlfriend Vanessa (Danneel Harris), who’s now pregnant with his seed. Harold, meanwhile, is a successful Wall Street cash-hoarder, living in a plush suburban home with wife Maria (Paula Garces, looking fierce in a red two-piece bikini) where he’s forced to entertain Maria’s entire family, namely her gruff, Christmas-loving father (a perfectly cast Danny Trejo).
Those six years haven’t been good to Harold and Kumar’s friendship, though, with the former separating himself from his lesser-motivated, bad influence of a pal. So when Kumar receives a mysterious package at their old apartment, he brings it to Harold’s crib, and, lo and behold, it’s a huge blunt. An in-house fire burns Harold’s father-in-law’s precious Christmas tree down, which sends the old friends off to find a replacement. And, joined by Harold’s uptight new friend (Thomas Lennon) and Kumar’s obnoxious neighbor (Amir Blumenfeld), they encounter Russian mobsters, a bad coke-induced Claymation trip, an overly horny virgin, and old colleague Neil Patrick Harris, who reveals that his recent coming-out announcement was merely a front to screw more women.
The extended sequence with NPH is the film’s best bit, totally self-aware (he ends their run-in with, “See you in the fourth one!”) and hilariously played by Harris. It’s indicative of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas’ balls-out energy, a carefree vibe that assaults all races and sexual preferences in harmlessly pointed ways. Even the holiday classic A Christmas Story gets lovingly foiled, in a bit that requires Cho to bravely have his joint frozen to a pole, only to be saved by a possessed robot toy, called WaffleBot, that shoots acid syrup at Harold and Kumar’s enemies and caps off the ridiculousness with, “They serve pancakes in Hell.” If that doesn’t make you laugh, avoid A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas at all costs. And leave the duo’s glorious return to form for those who can appreciate its lowbrow charms.