It's been seven years since Harold and Kumar went to White Castle and three since they escaped from Guantanamo Bay.
In the years since those films came out, Kal Penn has worked in the White House while John Cho has appeared in a string of television shows and J.J. Abrams' Star Trek. Whatever their other projects, the Harold and Kumar stoner franchise has become more popular than the burger joint that helped make it famous. A third instalment was inevitable.
And so, just in time for the holidays, we have A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. That sound you just heard was a million lighters firing up a million joints. And because weed smokers love math, we're breaking the movie down by the numbers:
2 Years since Harold (Cho) and Kumar (Penn) have seen each other. Tired of Kumar always getting them into trouble, Harold has got a job on Wall Street, a beautiful house in the suburbs which he shares with his wife, and a new best friend, a square dad named Todd (played by Thomas Lennon). Kumar, meanwhile, has a beard and a bong, a filthy apartment and a pregnant ex-girlfriend.
1 Number of suspicious packages that Kumar must deliver to Harold, thus reuniting them.
3 Minimum number of self-referential 3-D jokes. We get it, the movie is in 3-D. The effects – smoke rings coming right at you, eggs being tossed, etc. – and the jokes about them would no doubt be awesome if you're in this movie's target audience. Instead, they come off as gratuitous and only mildly amusing. But isn't gratuitous and only mildly amusing the definition of 3-D?
84 Percentage of Neil Patrick Harris's awesomeness on display. His role as a fictional version of himself in the first movie was so ridiculously out of left field – Doogie Howser as drug-addled actor wandering around on ecstasy – that it single-handedly revived his career. He took the character to all new lows in the second instalment, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. So low, in fact, that there really aren't any more comic depths to sink to. He's still funny, but the obligatory cameo offers nothing more than exactly what you've come to expect.
12 Height, in feet, of the fir tree Harold must get and have home by midnight. Harold's fearsome father-in-law (Danny Trejo) loves Christmas so much he not only wears sweaters with Christmas trees on them, he also seems ready to kill Harold if he doesn't get that tree (which doesn't seem in the Christmas spirit).
0 Number of feature films previously helmed by director Todd Strauss-Schulson. But he does an entirely capable job with the material, guided surely by the script by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who wrote the two previous Harold & Kumar movies.
5:2 Ratio of minor chuckles to full-on belly laughs offered by the material. Patton Oswalt as a mall Santa who peddles dope with holiday-themed names such as Rudolph the Red-Eyed Reindeer is in the former category, while an X-rated homage to A Christmas Story falls in the latter.
4 Rank, minimum, on any list of live-action holiday movies with classic Claymation sequences. High on an unknown substance, Harold and Kumar share a hallucinatory vision of being plasticine people chased by a very large, very angry snowman. It's not only one of the film's funniest sequences, it's also a good indication of how much lighter this movie is compared to Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. Other than an early scene of Wall Street protesters, they've vaporized the politics and returned to the absurdist stoner silliness that made the first film a cult hit. The laughs may not be as strong as they were the first time, and the sense of discovering something fantastically illicit may have faded to mellow, familiar charms that come with the occasional giggle fit, but that's life as a stoner comedy.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
- Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson
- Written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg
- Starring Kal Penn, John Cho and Neil Patrick Harris
- Classification: 18A