Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Premise: The third film in the series. Stoner buddies Harold and Kumar (John Cho and Kal Penn) reunite for an adventure on Christmas Eve.
What Works: The Harold and Kumar films are uneven movies and like the previous entries, the newest adventure has a few funny moments. The social satire of theprevious films, especially the play on racial stereotypes, has always worked much better than the drug humor and this is true of the newest Harold and Kumar installment. This film is shown theatrically in 3-D and the use of the 3-D technology is some of the most effective seen recently as the film uses obvious gags and even makes some self-reflexive jokes at the expense of the very technique it is employing. The performance given by actor Kal Penn as Kumar is also worth mentioning. Penn is a good actor and of the two leads his character is far better written and given comparably more interesting things to do in the film.
What Doesn’t: Unfortunately, A Very Harold and Kumar 3-D Christmas fumbles a lot of what is interesting about its script. This series of films aspires to the mix of vulgarity and social satire that South Park has turned into an art form but Harold and Kumar has never been able to strike that same kind of balance. Instead, the crude stoner humor works against the satirical gags because the two are not connected. The film clumsily shifts gears between high and lowbrow comedy instead of elegantly dancing between them. The stoner gags are often lazy and uninspired; there is just nothing new or even ambitious here. The film tries to push boundaries in other areas but it is halfhearted; after the parade of extreme sex comedies released recently like The Hangover, Zach and Miri Make a Porno, and Friends With Benefits, it just isn’t enough to be overtly sexual or disgusting. In the better examples of recent raunchy comedies, films have used crude jokes to make some observations about contemporary sexuality. Harold and Kumar isn’t interested in anything beyond the obvious and even its attempts at just shocking the audience into laughter are not up to the levels of audacity established in other movies. On the satirical front, Harold and Kumar similarly falls short. There are a few amusing jokes early on but for satire to work it has to actually have something to say. This film just repeats jokes that self-consciously reiterate racial stereotypes but it does not do anything beyond that. And although Harold and Kumar does not use self-consciousness as an excuse for otherwise racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes the way The Hangover Part II and The Change Up did, it also does not use that self-consciousness for any discernable purpose. But the biggest disappointment of A Very Harold and Kumar 3-D Christmas is the fact that this film misses the opportunity to say anything interesting about the holiday season. Movies and television specials about the holidays are a particularly nauseating niche of entertainment because they are often pretentious and syrupy. This film was an opportunity to send that up but there is very little of the holidays in this film and when it does incorporate the holidays the film reconfirms traditions and beliefs instead of challenging them.
Bottom Line: A Very Harold and Kumar 3-D Christmas falls short as a stoner comedy, a satire, or a holiday spoof. Even though the Harold and Kumar films may not be intended to be viewed sober it’s difficult to imagine them funny in any state of mind.
Episode: #365 (November 20, 2011)