Sunday, November 6, 2011

RIDING HIGH ON A MAGIC SLEIGH RIDE - A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

Has it really been six years since Harold and Kumar escaped Guantanamo Bay? Well, you couldn't tell from "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas". Sure, the film establishes that Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) have gone their separate ways: Harold has married Maria (Paula Garces), become a successful Wall Street stuffed shirt and moved to the suburbs of New Jersey, whereas Kumar has failed his medical exam and has split from his girlfriend Vanessa (Danneel Harris) who just happens to be pregnant with his child. The duo are reunited when a mysterious package addressed to Harold is left on Kumar's doorstep. In delivering the package, Kumar inadvertently destroys the prized Christmas tree of Maria's father, Carlos Perez (Danny Trejo in an inspired bit of casting), who doesn't like Harold one bit. In the search for a matching Christmas tree, the hijinks and hilarity ensue.

The film is not your average stoner comedy.  It pushes the envelope in terms of presentation and in its inherent randomness. This is as close as one can get to experiencing the randomness of being stoned without actually being stoned (not to say that this reviewer is either confirming or denying that he has ever been so, much less condoning such behavior...) however, given the sequencing of events that play out, one would assume this is the desired effect; an effect made more so by the 3D.  Ironically enough, this film makes the best use of 3D since James Cameron's "Avatar".  This very self-aware and self-referential film also pokes affectionate fun of the tropes of the season, such as holiday "claymation" specials and Santa Claus himself. 

Penn and Cho are so comfortable in their roles it seems like the six years in between film were only yesterday (though the film does provide sly in-joke references to what the actors themselves have been up to between the first and second sequels). Trejo provides comedic menace as the hard to please father-in-law and Elias Koteas appears as an Ukrainian mob boss out to get our heroes for a perceived slight against his daughter. Any danger they represent is treated almost casually. It exists to propel the story, as does the requisite message that friendships are forever and that change and growing up are inevitable but, in a stoner film, they seem disposably tacked on. As usual, Neil Patrick Harris (or "NPH") steals the show yet again, his small sequence bringing on the biggest amount of laughs.

The Harold and Kumar films are frivolously fun, and the latest entry is no exception. It is the most ambitious in its scope and presentation, but in the end its still a stoner Lucy and Ethel road trip film, one that unfolds with a "nudge nudge, wink wink" invitation to the audience to get in on the joke. The characters get high off weed, and the audience gets high off the laughter. All in all, a fair and equitable trade.

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