A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is the film version of regifting. No matter how good the product, there’s no big reason to get excited because you’ve seen it before.
First-time director Todd Strauss-Schulson wanted to pay tribute to directors from Busby Berkeley to Guy Ritchie in this send up of holiday movies. But his nods are so on-target that there are no original moments. Many of his spoofs have been done better by others, such as the claymation segment that was nailed last year by Community.
What saves the film is the natural chemistry of John Cho and Kal Penn. They make the best film stoners since Cheech and Chong smoked their way to the top.
The third film in the series has Harold (Cho) and Kumar (Penn) living in different worlds. Harold has settled into a suburban lifestyle with one flaw: His father-in-law (Danny Trejo) hates him. Kumar’s out of work and dealing with life-changing news.
The two come together because of a mysterious package. But it’s an ill-fated reunion when the perfect Christmas tree Harold’s relatives brought gets destroyed. Their effort to find a replacement takes them from a holiday musical number to a showdown with a mobster.
Writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg — who have written all three films in the series — load the movie with the usual heavy dose of decadence and debauchery. There’s male frontal nudity, hot naked nuns in the shower and Jesus as a player.
Where they cross the line is a secondary story line about a 2 year-old who gets high on marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy. The scenes are played at an absurd level, but it’s hard to laugh at a toddler put in such a situation. Even the guys in The Hangover had enough sense to protect the baby in their movie.
The biggest laughs again come from Neil Patrick Harris, who plays a twisted version of himself. He’s equally as comfortable in a holiday musical number as in poking fun at all the attention given his personal life. His work is an example of how something familiar can be funny.
Unlike with most 3D movies that have fallen flat because filmmakers haven’t embraced the gimmick, Strauss-Schulson harkens back to the days when items appeared to come out of the screen. Just like getting a Christmas present that’s being passed on, there’s nothing overtly wrong with the latest exploits of Harold and Kumar. At the same time, there’s not much that’s overtly right, either.
Cast: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Paula Garces, Danneel Harris, Tom Lennon.
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson.
Screenwriters: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg.
Producer: Greg Shapiro.
A New Line release. Running time: 94 minutes. Strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence. Opens Friday Nov. 4 at area theaters.