Halloween may have only just passed, but like a display in a department store, the holiday season hype has begun.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas attempts to deliver raunchy Yuletide hilarity in the vein of Bad Santa, but this second sequel falls well short of the mark. It’s higly unlikely anyone will remember this movie by Thanksgiving, let alone the end of December.
In the years since their previous adventure, Harold (John Cho) has distanced himself from best pal Kumar (Kal Penn). Because while Kumar still lives in the same apartment, in the same perpetually stoned state, his successful buddy Harold has moved into a fancy house with wife Maria (Paula Garcés).
When Maria’s intimidating father (an amusing Danny Trejo) arrives for a visit with the rest of the family, Harold takes on the task of decorating a specially-grown fir tree while the others attend Christmas Mass. Of course, Kumar drops by and accidentally burns the tree down. The pair desperately attempt to hunt down a replacement fir before the family returns, and rekindle their friendship in the process.
Misfortunes inevitably follow and soon they’re on the run from a Ukrainian mobster (Elias Koteas), who mistakes them for rapists, and a Wafflebot that fires skin-melting grills at anyone who prefers pancakes. They also encounter an infant that accidentally ingests marijuana, cocaine and numerous other illicit substances and becomes hyperactive as a result. If this sounds more stale than side-splitting, you would be right.
This time out, the humor isn’t as focused on the character’s wild interactions – it’s about throwing in random, bizarre, and shocking sight gags that don’t have the impact they once did. In between, cameos reintroduce characters from previous films, including series regular Neil Patrick Harris as “himself.” It’s nice to see them, but they don’t add much to the main narrative. Additionally, self-referential nods to White Castle and the personal lives of the stars (in particular, Penn’s stint as a White House staffer) become tedious.
Even the big skits feel like missed opportunities. While attempting to dodge Maria’s family, the pair unintentionally crash a rehearsal for a musical number in a television special. They don’t end up being thrown in front of a real crowd or live TV, or find themselves being forced to improvise. Instead, they simply perform with relative ease as the number progresses smoothly. The situations just aren’t as memorable.
At least the filmmakers have chosen to milk the third dimension for everything its worth. Everything that can be hurled into the audience is, including bong smoke and shattered glass. The highlight (and one of the few laughs) involves the gruesome 3D egging of a supporting character. Without the 3D, there is little else to recommend.
Penn and Cho are talented and still manage a few funny offhanded observations, but for the most part A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas gives them little to work with. At the end of a scene, NPH casually states, “See you in the fourth one!” One hopes all involved walk away from the franchise before things get any worse.
2 out of 5