The Hangover made Warner Brothers half a billion dollars worldwide and became the comedy favorite of many, but it owes a serious debt to Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Before The Hangover posse woke up to a lion in their midst, Harold and Kumar rode a cheetah through the woods; random celebrity cameo from Mike Tyson? Neil Patrick Harris’ recent career revival is directly related to his cocaine cameo in the franchise’s first outing. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was the reigning champion of surrealist, insane, shenanigan-filled movies. Which is why it’s so disappointing that despite a bigger budget and a chance to make up for the lack luster sequel Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, the boys still fail to live up to the hilarity standard they set in 2004.
The third film picks up with the duo separated for the last two years as Harold (John Cho) gets sucked into the trappings of adulthood (marriage, mortgage, occupation) and Kumar (Kal Penn) keeps smoking the ganj. A Christmas crisis throws the pair together, as they encounter hurdle after ridiculous hurdle through their evening quest, including, but not limited to, cocaine toddlers, clay peni, Russian mobsters, and the obligatory Neil Patrick Harris appearance.
Which is another way of saying: If you’ve seen the trailer for A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas:
You’ve already seen all that’s worth seeing. The trailer commits the cardinal sin of comedy film advertisements by showcasing all the laughs, leaving little to lose your popcorn over after you’ve already handed over your greenbacks – which will be a lot considering the film is in 3D and offers little justification for the format. Despite making obvious references to the 3D of the film and exploiting any opportunity to throw something at the screen, it barely registers as a necessary or funny part of the film. Even with the increasingly utilized extreme slow motion Phantom cameras, these visual flourishes are decidedly ho-hum.
Despite a smorgasbord of Christmas iconography to lampoon, solid chemistry between John Cho and Kal Penn, and some funny moments, the film lacks a passionate, cohesive script to hold it all together. The jokes on sexuality, drug use, racism, are not inherently bad, but it’s not enough to show a stoned toddler and flash the LAUGH NOW sign. The problem with A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas is that it’s ultimately lazy, poorly staged comedy. Without more laughter or more yule-tied sentiment, it’s too fractured to feel satisfying.
No Christmas miracle here, the magic’s gone. At least we’ll always have our trip to White Castle….