Written by Dylan Brandsema
As far as modern American comedies are concerned the Harold & Kumar series has proven itself as one of the most memorable, if not also one of the best. When 2004’s Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle was released and became a total sleeper hit, it only made sense that the film would spawn sequels, and while the 2nd installment in the franchise, is great as both a sequel and a stand-alone film, it’s 2011’s A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas that seems to encompass everything the series has been about.
While Guantanamo Bay picks up right where White Castle left off, this one starts off 6 years after the events of Guantanamo where we find our esteemed Harold and Kumar, whose roles have been reprised by the now well-established John Cho and Kal Penn, split apart and living separate lives. As expected, events transpire that force them to unwillingly encounter one another, involving Christmas trees, russians mob bosses, the real Santa Claus, waffle-producing robots, and of course, a returning Neil Patrick Harris along with an unforgettable and hilarious father-in-law played by a formidable, intimidating Danny Trejo.
One thing about A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas that stands out is the element of self-awareness that the film seems to hint at throughout its duration. There’s small, but memorable moment towards the middle of the first act where a baby Jesus lawn ornament is catapulted into the air, and during the sequence, it looks directly at the camera and winks one eye, as if saying to the audience “Yeah, you know what’s next, don’t you?”. Its this kind of self-conscious, cognizant humor that prevents the film from being predictable in a bad way, and it inhibits any absurd, ridiculous direction that film may take (which it does, indeed) from being outright pretentious or worthy of condescending eye rolls.
Of course, the most notable thing about this installment in the franchise, is the fact that it is, by every right, a Christmas movie — something that’s somewhat uncommon for a series of adult-oriented “stoner” comedy. While this particular aspect has been potential to be polarizing, it almost comes across as a breath of fresh air, and it’s not nodded at too much directly to the point where it becomes tiresome, and it prevents the film from sticking out like a sore thumb as compared to the other two, thematically. In looking into this further, it can be concluded that this stems from the fact that, although it is indeed a Christmas movie, not every scene in the film is Christmas-related. During the more serious moments, such as the scene where Kumar talks to his ex girlfriend Vanessa about he’s going to straighten out his life, it’s possible, to forget, in a way, for a moment that you’re watching what is technically holiday movie, which works well for the fact that, unlike a lot of Christmas movies, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the holiday season for the film to be an appropriate, fitting watch.
One of the few downsides of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, aside from it’s abominable mouthful of a title, is, of course, the 3D element, or therefore lack of it. During it’s original theater run back in 2011, everyone saw it in 3D, because, well, it’s in the damn title, and it is meant to be a 3D movie. Now-a-days, it’s available on all formats, such as standard non-3D DVD and Blu-Ray, as well Video OnDemand and certain online movie streaming services. Because of this, if one watches it without the 3D, the parts of the films that are directly and promptly meant to be in 3D (for example: glass shattering a flying at the screen, egg being thrown on the lens, or smoke coming out of a bong in the direction of the camera) are abhorrently distracting, and, as the only real unfavorable asset to the film, it grows rather aggravating very fast.
Despite the 3D element being a negative factor in the midst of it all, A Very & Kumar 3D Christmas is altogether wonderful. It has an excellent balance of being both funny and serious when it needs to be, and it takes new, creative liberties with how far its story is willing to go with its craziness and lunacy, while also staying true the roots of the series and it’s sole characters. Many fans have said that if there is a 4th installment in the series (which, according to a 4th-wall joke by Neil Patrick Harris in one scene, there will be), it should be the last, which is easily agreeable. For now, though, we have have a fantastic trilogy of modern comedy gems to cherish, one of which is a perfect viewing for the Holiday season.
Overall rating: 9/10
A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas 3D is available on Amazon.