Family, presents, the perfect tree, the Wu-Tang Clan: these are the yuletide staples that warm our hearts each Christmas. A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas wraps all of this in 3-D packaging and delivers. If you are a lover of the absurd, a fan of the characters, or simply high, you’ll be glad that Kal Penn decided to leave his White House job to participate in the third installment.
The Harold and Kumar movies are excellent at providing their characters with a strong, simple motivation which gets waylaid over and over due to various (often drug-related) distractions: a trip to White Castle or vacation to Amsterdam becomes a ride on a cheetah or a stint in Guantanamo Bay. This time, young director Todd Strauss-Schulson takes viewers on a similar journey, whose motive begins as a search to replace the destroyed prize Christmas tree of Harold’s frightening father-in-law (Danny Trejo).
Six years have passed since the Guantanamo incident, and Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Penn) have grown apart. Harold is married with a fancy job and house, while Kumar is a med-school dropout who smokes weed all day. They each have a new best friend. Kumar hangs out with a nerdy hipster named Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld), while Harold is friends with Todd (Thomas Lennon), a hilariously clingy Ned Flanders type. Their journey for the perfect tree takes them all over New York City, introducing them to all sorts of unique characters, including a lovable little machine named Wafflebot, a drug-addicted toddler, and, of course, a debauched, womanizing version of Neil Patrick Harris.
The greatest thing about A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas and its predecessors is its full awareness of how ridiculous it is, and willingness to wink at the audience whenever possible. The 3-D format is a source of tons of self-referential visual jokes, and seeing this movie with the glasses is a must for maximum hilarity (how else are you going to get the full effect of the Wall Street egg massacre?). I laughed without stopping for 90 minutes. And surprisingly, those looking for a touching holiday movie should not discount this one. Just underneath that raunchy stoner facade is a story about the tenacity of friendship and what’s really important in life.