“They serve pancakes in hell!”
The Scoop: 2011 R, directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson and starring John Cho, Kal Penn, and Neil Patrick Harris
Tagline: Get Mistle-toasted.
Summary Capsule: An estranged Harold and Kumar must reunite on Christmas Eve and venture into New York City, where they must find the perfect Christmas tree, avoid the Russian mob, and discover that true love comes in the shape of a waffle.
Al’s rating: Pancakes are for chumps.
Al’s review: At some point, don’t you imagine that someone would have asked the question, “Do we really need another Harold & Kumar?” I mean, this first one was good, guys. Really. It was cool, funny, and brought some new energy to a tired genre. The second one was… well… the second one was better than a knee in the crotch. So it had that going for it.
But doing a third movie? A Christmas movie? A 3D Christmas movie? I’d ask them what they were smoking, but they’ve never really tried to hide that. Let’s just leave my reaction to this film’s existence at sputtering bewilderment. From a studio perspective, there must have better ways to spend money. From an audience’s perspective, there must certainly have been better ways to spend Christmas. And wasn’t Kal Penn working for Barack Obama? How the heck did this movie even happen?
And, yet, despite my protestations and demonstrating a flagrant disregard for my peace of mind, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas exists. Someone wrote it, someone filmed it, and someone released it. And at least one person has now seen it. And that person is shocked to tell you that it’s very, very good.
The story picks up six years after the end of Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Harold has found success and married his girlfriend Maria. Kumar lives alone in a two-room apartment and smokes himself into a walking coma on a daily basis. Neither has seen the other in over two years. However, on the morning of December 24th, fate (or is it someone else?) seems to have conspired to get them back together: a wrapped present marked for Harold arrives on Kumar’s doorstep, and — despite his misgivings — Kumar decides to deliver it to his ex-friend.
Their reunion is short and awkward, and rapidly goes downhill when Kumar burns down the Christmas tree in Harold’s living room. To make matters worse, the tree isn’t actually Harold’s: it belongs to Maria’s father, Danny Trejo, who loves Christmas and hates Harold. Luckily, he and Maria are out for the evening, which gives Harold and Kumar a few hours to set aside their differences, find an identical Christmas tree, and maybe (just maybe!) discover the true meaning of Christmas. Or maybe not. I just kinda threw in that last part.
I admit that the premise is tired, but I was impressed with the way the movie maintains it’s Christmassyness (that’s a thing, right?) while avoiding being yet another version of A Christmas Carol or The Gift of the Magi or whatever. They took the time to try and do something a little bit different, and I appreciated it.
That said, nothing is too different, and I don’t think you’d really want it to be. The drug humor is still omnipresent. John Cho and Kal Penn are still very, very funny, both when they’re by themselves and when they play off of one another. Neil Patrick Harris is still hamming it up and still boldly straddling the line between awesome and creepy. All the things that you loved about the first two movies are present, accounted for, and slowly marinating in a haze of pot smoke. They even go to White Castle again!
I should also mention that I didn’t get to see this movie in 3D, but that doesn’t mean I can’t talk about it. AVH&K3DC (rolls off the tongue, right?) was filmed specifically with 3D in mind, and, in most films, that means the filmmakers were either (a) trying to be artsy or (b) trying to make more money than their movie deserves. In Harold & Kumar, however, the filmmakers know that 3D is a ridiculous gimmick and clearly just wanted be able to throw a bunch of crap at the screen. And they do. A lot. Even in the 2D version, their relentlessness wins you over and you ultimately can’t help being amused.
As it turned out, though, I didn’t actually need to see any of that to fall back in love with Harold & Kumar. All I needed was Wafflebot, the miniature robot in a chef’s hat who follows you around and serves you waffles. And it talks. And it loves you. And I want one. Honestly, I think if Wafflebot could go on a road trip with ’80s Robot from The Muppets, I might just quit watching movies altogether, because where do you go from there? Nowhere but down, that’s where. So I’d just sit—me and Wafflebot and ’80s Robot—together, forever at the pinnacle of cinema. And, then, when I died, I could die saying I’d lived a damn full life. Damn full.
…I’m sorry, where was I?
Oh, right, Harold & Kumar.
So, I was really impressed with a lot of what this movie had to offer. Not everything is hilarious—there’s a running gag about a toddler who keeps trying different drugs that never quite got funny for me—and you can probably argue that the movie relies a little too heavily on the dynamic of tightwad Harold vs slacker Kumar, but just about everything else works and, ultimately, this movie is simply fun with Christmas lights and it never aspires to be anything else. So, if your holiday season is feeling a little stale and you can already quote Christmas Vacation and Scrooged from memory, maybe you want to put A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas in your pipe and smoke it. It’s good stuff, man.
- The Mall Santa in the first scene is played by Patton Oswalt.
- I really love that Harold & Kumar each have a “replacement friend” that doesn’t quite measure up. It’s not the most original trope in the world, but it really worked for me here.
- Lamar and Latrell should appear in more movies, I think.
- At one point, Adrian lies and says that Kumar works for the White House. Kal Penn actually does work at the White House and took time off to make this movie.
- Adrian also calls Harold “Sulu” at one point. John Cho also plays Sulu in the rebooted Star Trek.
- Wow, that beer pong kid got under my skin in the worst way.
- Claymation! Yay! Claymated genitals! Yay?
- David Burtka, Neil Patrick Harris’s real-life partner, briefly appears as Neil’s partner in this movie. Neither are credited as “himself”; each is instead listed as playing a character with the exact same name.
- Watch out, Santa!
Kenneth: This is a Sharp 52″ Aquos Quattron TV with state-of-the-art 3D technology that makes Avatar look Avatarded!
Kumar: I haven’t shaved since you left. Pretty romantic, right? Like Ryan Gosling in The Notebook.
[after Danny Trejo’s tree burns down]
Harold: Koreans have killed his mother and now his tree. Christmas is ruined!
Harold: You still haven’t explained the gay thing.
Kumar: You’re not gay, man!
Harold: At all!
Neil Patrick Harris: Yeah that’s something us magicians like to call misdirection. Just a little something I picked up from my man, Clay Aiken.
Wafflebot: They serve pancakes in hell!
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
- Pineapple Express
- Christmas Vacation