Getting toasted over an open joint is the catalyst for more madcap stoner mayhem in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, a threequel that, after two uneven predecessors, finally elevates its titular duo to the realm of ganja-comedy icons. Penned with surrealist wit by series creators Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, and helmed with zany panache by director Todd Strauss-Schulson, this latest saga overflows with inspired craziness, doling out an all-night odyssey of sex-centric crises, death-defying conflicts, and Neal Patrick Harris-centered insanity with snowballing momentum, as bits pile on top of bits with intoxicating verve. Aside from an extremely timely intro in which Harold (John Cho), now a Wall Street exec, is accosted by angry protesters, this latest outing dispatches with Harold & Kumar Escape form Guantanamo Bay‘s hot-button political ribbing in favor of out-and-out silliness buoyed by a holiday spirit of family and friendship unity. That endearing mood provides the feel-good emotional backbone for its heroes’ attempts at reconciliation after two estranged years apart, a rift caused by Harold’s decision to dispatch with childish drug use for a mature career and married life in the suburbs, and Kumar’s (Kal Penn) desire to remain a slovenly slacker doofus concerned only with getting high.
Reunited by a mysterious package that turns out to contain a magical spliff that burns down a beloved Christmas tree grown by Harold’s demanding father-in-law (Danny Trejo), the two come to grips with adulthood, impending fatherhood, and the importance of loyalty and selflessness via an adventure that revels in T&A-laced crassness, from a recurring gag about an infant getting stoned on a variety of drugs, to a Claymation sequence notable for its nudity and gore, to a so-dumb-it’s-funny phallic twist on A Christmas Story‘s most famous scene. As usual, cultural stereotypes are both raised and mocked with pro-multicultural abandon, though that franchise modus operandi feels a tad strained during these jolly proceedings, which more consistently thrive on the sheer delirium of bombarding the screen with tongue-in-cheek idiocy. As before, that no-holds-barred liveliness reaches a crescendo with the appearance of Harris, who, playing a horndog crackhead version of himself, has a self-referential wink-wink blast prancing through a Radio City Music Hall-style Christmas stage spectacular and then, backstage, revealing that his homosexuality is really just a canny ruse to score with the ladies—a development that plays out via a sexual assault almost as inappropriately funny as his subsequent tale of being evicted from heaven for stealing (and receiving handjobs from) Jesus’s topless girlfriends.
As R-rated as they come, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas employs bawdiness as a means of conveying its protagonists’ authentic camaraderie, all while delivering hilariously random nonsense, such as a must-have holiday item known as a WaffleBot (the tagline: “Robot + Waffles = Awesome!”) that eventually falls in love with Kumar. The sheer wealth of gags inevitably leads to some groan-worthy misfires (particularly a Ukrainian mobster subplot and a diner sequence featuring Harold and Kumar’s Jewish pals), but propulsive pacing is key to keeping the atmosphere energized, as does the film’s pitch-perfect use of its central special effects. Be it Harold’s work colleague trotting out a glasses-required flat-screen TV (“It makes Avatar look Avatar-ded!”) and then ridiculously pointing at the audience for maximum stuff-sticking-out stupidity, or a host of moments involving projectile semen, cascading confetti, and floating smoke rings, 3D is treated as it should be—namely, as a laughable gimmick that, when utilized properly, can nonetheless deliver a dim, immature, sensory buzz. Simultaneously derisive and affectionate toward its look-at-me aesthetic device, which is used with an excessiveness matched by its outrageousness, the film—not unlike Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and its pro-burger chain advertising—comes to play like a sly sales pitch for 3D TV sales, directed squarely at coach-potato potheads.