“A Very Harold and Kumar 3-D Christmas” is not a movie for the easily offended. There is a running gag wherein a baby is exposed to cannabis, cocaine, and even ecstasy, and Neil Patrick Harris is shown being kicked out of heaven by Jesus because he gets a hand-job in Jesus’ club.
This film comes three years after the franchise’s last offering, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, and does much to reinvigorate the franchise by bringing it back to its roots while at the same time examining the effect time has on close friendships.
The film is set six years after its predecessor, and the irreverent duo of Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) have drifted apart in that time.
Harold is a successful Wall Street banker and is married, clean and sober. Kumar is exactly where he has always been, a stoned med school drop out with no ambition.
A mysterious package for Harold shipped to Kumar’s apartment force the two to reunite and eventually confront the reasons for their long separation, while on a quixotic quest to find a perfect Christmas tree the night before Christmas.
This time around the film is filled to the brim with cultural or ethnic stereotypes: black gangsters, violent Eastern-Europeans, tight-fisted Jewish people. However, those who only notice these stereotypes are missing out on a common underlying theme for the Harold and Kumar films: the deconstruction and examination of racial stereotypes.
This new installment is no different. The black gangsters are just regular guys who take turns, with one playing the gangster and another playing a helpful gentleman, acknowledging and playing on the stereotype.
The violent Eastern-Europeans suffer from inter-personal relationship issues and have a powerful, tear filled breakthrough.
The Jewish people ponder the ways in which our religion (or ethnicity) can define our lives and whether or not one can ever truly be free of the stereotype which comes with a certain culture.
Perhaps the subtlest and cleverest subversion of all, however, is the fact that Harold and Kumar’s ethnicity is invisible entirely, except when pointed out by bigots (such as a Ukrainian heiress who politely informs the Indian Kumar “I don’t date black guys.”)
The humor is still incredibly widespread and hit-or-miss, but some moments are truly fantastic.
The film’s early references to its own 3-D gimmick and cultural references to the “Occupy” movement where a mob of protesters throw eggs at Harold and his co-worker in an obvious send-off to John Woo are perfectly executed. A claymation drug trip is another shining sequence.
The best, however, has to be Neil Patrick Harris’ contribution. He is still the same womanizing drug addict version of himself, explaining that his announcement that he was gay was simply a P.R. move and a way to more easily prey on women. His fiancé David Burtka also makes an appearance and the two play up the joke superbly.
While the humor is scatter-shot, the film keeps to a reasonably tight 90 minute running time and pokes fun at a culture that has become increasingly politically correct. On a regular basis pot smoke is blown at the audience in 3-D. The message is pretty clear. Lighten up, America.