Stoner comedies and Christmas movies inhabit their own little circles of movie genredom, never really crossing each other’s paths. As with all things, it was inevitable that the two eventually would collide, and the result is A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, recently released on Blu-ray. The movie hit theaters in 3D this past holiday season, and a 3D version is available on disc. Being that I can’t watch a 3D movie without experiencing my own version of a bad trip, I reviewed the 2D Blu-ray, and that just might have made the movie even better.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas is the third installment in the franchise. Since it’s a stoner comedy at heart, memory retention isn’t a big priority, so you can jump straight into this one without having seen the first two. I went directly from having seen the first movie to watching this one and didn’t feel like I’d missed a beat. This holiday misadventure picks up a couple of years after the last movie, and our accidental heroes are at very different places in life than when we last saw them. Harold (John Cho) is married to Maria (Paula Garcés) and has managed to climb the corporate ladder in New York to work alongside the much maligned “1%.” Meanwhile Kumar (Kal Penn), abandoned by his more successful cohort, has failed the drug testing for his medical board exams and lives with his opportunistic friend Adrian (CollegeHumor’s Amir Blumenfeld) in a constant pot haze.
Harold and Kumar deal with separate crises as the movie opens. Maria’s family is coming to visit for Christmas, and her dad (veteran badass Danny Trejo) is notoriously obsessed with the holiday, going as far as to bring along the eight-foot fir Christmas tree he’s been growing for years. When Harold accidentally burns the tree to the ground while everybody else is at Christmas Eve mass, the holiday—and Harold’s chance at respect from his wife’s family—just might be ruined. Elsewhere, Kumar’s ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Danneel Ackles) shows up to announce that she’s pregnant. Kumar responds in typical Kumar fashion, bungling his impending fatherhood.
A mysterious Christmas gift brings the two estranged friends together in the midst of their own troubles, and they fall into working together on a hare brained scheme to replace Maria’s dad’s Christmas tree before the family gets home at 2am. That’s when the adventure kicks in as the buddies travel all over New York in search of an eight-foot fir. Along the way they run afoul of the Ukrainian mob, inadvertently drug a toddler, and gain a healthy fear for A Christmas Story. All in a night’s work for Harold and Kumar. As they bumble their way through the city they encounter a slew of recognizable faces in cameos, including Patton Oswalt as a drug peddling mall Santa, Eureka’s Jordan Hinson as an Internet girlfriend on a mission, and, of course, the ever cameo-ing Neil Patrick Harris.
While Harold and Kumar still are up to their drug-addled hijinks, this Christmas outing presents a softer side to the raucous duo. While they previously have been fueled by their post-high munchies and a desire to troll the depths of Amsterdam, this time Harold is driven by his desire to be a responsible family man, and Kumar wants to do right by both his friend and Vanessa. It’s a side of the guys we haven’t seen before, and it suits them surprisingly well as they creep into their thirties.
In addition to the theatrical cut of the movie, the “Extra Dope Edition” Blu-ray includes an extended cut that runs about six minutes longer than the original. There’s also a nine minute “Through the Haze” collection of vignettes by comedian Tom Lennon, who plays Harold’s super conservative buddy Todd. Rounding out the extras are a brief making-of featurette about the movie’s bizarre Claymation scene, as well as a short collection of deleted scenes. The movie frequently makes fun of the tropes of 3D films, complete with eggs flying at the audience, a three dimensional snowfall of cocaine, and lots of hands (and other body parts) flapping at the viewer. Seeing the movie in 2D makes all the jabs at 3D even funnier, not to mention that you don’t have to endure a cross-eyed headache while watching.
I’m ordinarily a Christmas movie curmudgeon, despising the super saccharine dose of jolly these movies tend to dump on me. A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas manages to do the Christmas movie thing without once straying into eye rolling territory. It’s entirely crude, irreverent, and deplorable without becoming mean spirited. It is a crazy holiday movie about two well intentioned guys who always manage to get themselves and everyone around them embroiled in an incredible amount of trouble. This third film is a high point (pun possibly intended) for a franchise that just keeps on rolling (okay, that pun was totally intended). Sure, it’s February, but it’s never the wrong time of year to check out A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas.