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What is it about 2011 that has unleashed all manner of ill-mannered, political incorrectness in movie comedies?  With the big studio releases of Bad Teacher, 30 Minutes or Less and Horrible Bosses, I feel like Hollywood is trying to say something.  The arrival of the third Harold and Kumar film Ė in unrepentantly gimmicky 3D, yet - amidst this embrace of vulgarity couldnít have come at a better time.

It was inevitable; the ganja-loving young men we met in 2004 whose post-pot munchies could only be assuaged by the delicious fare at White Castle, have grown up Ö sort of.  Harold has become a top earner at his bank; heís married Maria, the girl of his dreams and lives the good life in a fabulous home.  Kumar, on the other hand, flunked out of medical school after failing a drug test, which means most of his days are spent stoned senseless in the flat he and Harold used to share.  Strangely enough, family life causes problems for each of the estranged old friends; Haroldís scary in-laws are descending on his house for the holidays, with Mariaís snarling father bearing an obsession with executing the perfect Christmas - and possibly executing Harold.  Kumarís relationship with ex-girlfriend Vanessa isnít quite over as she turns up in Kumarís smoke-infested hovel to announce heís going to be a dad.  A mysterious package addressed to Harold and delivered to Kumarís flat makes for an uncomfortable reunion for the pair whose drifting apart hasnít faded some resentment thatís risen through the years.  Kumar still thinks of Harold as uptight and Harold still sees Kumar as an irresponsible manchild who ruins everything he touches.  Neither one is far wrong and itís Kumarís special gift for destruction that sends the guys on yet another road trip odyssey; this time to replace the special Christmas tree that Mariaís father hand-raised that now lies in ashes after standing too close to Kumar.  Along the way, Harold and Kumar will be chased and tortured by Russian mobsters, suffer sexual assault by a gorgeous, frustrated virgin, befriend a devoted, waffle-making robot, unwittingly turn an infant into a drug-crazed superhero and dance in a Christmas spectacular with Neil Patrick Harris.

The 3D aspect is immediately spoofed in the script and then used at every opportunity to go way over the top.  Well beyond the expected copious clouds of marijuana smoke frequently billowing from Kumar like a factory; we have eggs, excrement, beer pong, cocaine rocks, and claymation penises all cominí at ya.  Yes, I said claymation penises: After a dip into some spiked egg nog, the boys experience a trip that turns them into animated characters in a scene that owes more to Robot Chicken to the holiday innocence of Rankin-Bass.  We also have a special moment with Danny Trejo as Haroldís terrifying father-in-law, expressing some Christmas joy in a way that could only be fully captured in 3D.  Prepare to add this scene to the list of things that you can never unsee. The humour is totally politically incorrect in the strangely sweet, equal-opportunity-offender way that seems to be a specialty of this series.  The outrageous, often surreal comedy is leveraged by the presence of stars John Cho and Kal Penn, whose altar-egos audiences continue to want to root for.  However, this chapter strains that likeability by barely featuring that bond, opting instead to focus on craziness like the drugged-out baby, a very adult spin on a famous scene from A Christmas Story, and the deceptively hetero Neil Patrick Harrisí return after being shot running from a brothel in the last film.  NPH recounts getting kicked out of heaven because Jesus didnít want the competition.  And because no Christmas film would be complete without a visit from St. Nick, the boys manage to get Santaís attention by very extreme means only to find out the jolly one is an enabler.  Some of the moments that do get the audience laughing without things hurtling at their heads are the boysí recalling their shared love of the Wu Tang Clan, followed by a cameo by the RZA, the tale of Mariaís dadís unfortunate childhood, a throwaway line to Kumar asking if he didnít used to work in the White House and nearly every scene with Reno 911ís Thomas Lennon as Haroldís semi-emasculated new BFF.

By simultaneously mocking and pimping out the 3D trend, the Harold and Kumar franchise lives to see another outrageous day.  Gimmicks aside, I hope the next film - and thereís every indication that thereíll be one - relies a bit more on wit and Cho and Pennís teamwork than over-the-top visual gags.  Even so, there are plenty of riotous laughs, guilty and otherwise, to make A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas very enjoyable, indeed.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

November 4th, 2011



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