A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS Review: Welcomed Gross-out X-mas Comedy

While it inevitably succumbs to the thematic sentimentality of the festive season, it also provides plenty of crude gags and gross-out laughter along the way.

rating: 3.5

In terms of films, Christmas is hardly a time of celebration. It's a period of nostalgically re-watching family comedies from the late 80s and early 90s, singing along to musicals from the 50s and 60s, and tolerating whatever Christmas-themed dross Hollywood decides to shove down our throats. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas gives a welcome twist to this pattern. While it inevitably succumbs to the thematic sentimentality of the festive season, it also provides plenty of crude gags and gross-out laughter along the way. The plot sees Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) re-united after years of estrangement. Harold is now a high-earning City boy trying for a baby with his stunning Latino wife, while Kumar is down-and-out stoner still living in the flat the pair used to share. When Kumar delivers a package addressed to Harold, the chaos quickly commences as the pair set Harold's father-in-law's (Danny Trejo) Christmas tree on fire and set out to find a replacement before he returns from a family outing. Given it's a Christmas film, it's unsurprising that the humour in 3D Christmas is slightly toned down from previous Harold & Kumar outings. With less references to cannabis consumption and the munchies, it is less of an outright stoner movie. That being said, drugs are central to much of the film's humour. We're treated to snowing cocaine, a wonderfully psychedelic sequences where Harold & Kumar get stuck in a claymation world, and a 5-year-old kid who ingests a smorgasbord of drugs throughout the film. Despite the plentiful drug jokes and sprinklings of self-consciously racist humour that manages to be funny yet inoffensive, 3D Christmas also remains accessible to wider audiences. There are references to other X-mas movies, sing-and-dance sequences, and the obligatory 'something-sensitive-stuck-to-ice' scene which will have male viewers protectively crossing their legs. In short, there is something here for everyone, assuming everyone appreciates a bit of scatological humour. The plot effectively sees Harold and Kumar stumble from one absurd situation into another, with each one inching them closer to their goal. Along the way, they crash house parties, bump into Neil Patrick-Harris, who continues his tradition of playing a sex-and-drug-crazed version of himself in the series, and manage to get on the wrong side of a notorious Ukrainian mob boss. There is little coherence as to how they get into these situations, but who cares when they fulfil their comical function so well? Making his directorial debut, Todd Strauss-Schulson appears to have had little trouble acclimatising. He draws well on his experience in directing music videos, and is unafraid to jump out of the here-and-now of the narrative and have some fun in the director's seat. As such, we're treated to some brilliantly stylised scenes such as the claymation drug trip, Kumar's fantasy about how to steal a Christmas tree from a church, and a comic-strip-style introduction to mob boss, Sergei Katsov. For a director unrestrained by realism and full of garish confidence, the drug-fuelled absurdity of Harold & Kumar is a perfect match, and it'll be interesting to see where he goes from here. The film's 3D functions disappoint, with the best effects being the smoke drifting out of the screen every time Kumar indulges in a joint or a bong. Many of the scenes are tailored to exploit the 3D gimmick, with bits of debris coming out of the screen at every possible opportunity. Sadly, these moments in the film lack imagination, and I couldn't help but feel that the screen-time could've been put to better use. There are even a few scenes in which the 3D effect seems to flatten the image (such as Santa flying on his sleigh). The film features a strong supporting cast, with Tom Lennon and Amir Blumenfeld providing constant amusement as Harold and Kumar's respective best friends. As usual, Danny Trejothrives in pretting much playing his menacing self, albeit kitted out in a Christmas jumper that makes him look uncannily cuddly. 3D Christmas is not as side-splittingly hilarious as I recall the previous films being, but that may be because I'm no longer a 16-year-old stoner watching it in a pink-eyed haze. The 3D feature is more of a marketing gimmick than a feature that actually enhances the viewing experience. Nevertheless, 3D Christmas adds some welcome crudity to this year's line-up of Christmas films. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is in cinema's now.
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Gamer, Researcher of strange things. I'm a writer-editor hybrid whose writings on video games, technology and movies can be found across the internet. I've even ventured into the realm of current affairs on occasion but, unable to face reality, have retreated into expatiating on things on screens instead.