Friday, November 11, 2011

A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS - Goodbye Whitecastle, Hello Wafflebot.


- You've got to love the Harold & Kumar movies. They're just inherently goofy and good-natured. So keeping with tradition, this latest H&K flick is good for some quality laughs. And it's in 3D to boot - shamelessly, hilariously in 3D, throwing all manner of cheerful ludeness right in your face. I wouldn't call this a great movie - or even necessarilly a must-see - but if you're in the mood for some lighthearted holiday silliness, you can't go wrong with this entertaining - and incredibly random - third adventure starring everyone's favorite minority stoners.

The movie opens with a tried-and-true setup. It seems that while Kumar, now pushing 30, continues to live the carefree life of the stoned-out slacker, Harold - now married and working at a high-paying Wallstreet job - has grown up and moved past his old, Whitecastle-craving ways. In the years since their last adventure, the dynamic duo has increasingly grown apart, and are no longer on the best of terms. But when a mysterious package shows up at Kumar's apartment, addressed to Harold, Kumar ventures to Harold's stately manor to drop it off, and possibly reconnect with his old buddy.

Harold is having problems of his own. His wife's huge Mexican family is staying over for Christmas, and it turns out that his father-in-law is an easily-peeved Danny friggin' Trejo. Trejo likes his Christmas celebrations to be just right, and anything less will unleash his presumably fearsome wrath (he is, afterall, Machete!). So when Kumar's visit leads to an accident that destroys Trejo's special, one-of-a-kind Christmas Tree, Harold and Kumar must once again venture out into the night together on an epic quest - a quest to save Christmas. Along the way, Kumar must struggle to prove that he can grow up and be a man. Harold tries to rediscover his inner manchild. Eventually, Neil Patrick Harris shows up, a baby tries crack, a Russian gangster tries to kill our heroes, and generally, much hilarity ensues.

Oftentimes, the movie is so all over the place and random that it feels less like a cohesive film and more like a thrown-together collection of short comedy bits. That's not necessarilly a bad thing, but it sometimes gives the film a made-for-TV movie sort of feel. The movie throws a ton of stuff against the wall just to see what sticks. This leads to some great gags (Wafflebot!), and some that are, well, not so great (Harold and Kumar's awkwardly unfunny dinner with Jewish friends). And some moments are just plain random - like a trippy claymation sequence that parodies the old-school holiday specials of yore.

But the movie has its share of memorable jokes. Neil Patrick Harris has some hilarious riffs on his status as an out-and-proud gay man. Danny Trejo and his humongous Mexican clan are the targets of some on-the-money jokes. And a scene where our heroes take on a bunch of bratty teens in a spirited game of beer-pong is a highlight, even if only for the amazing Jaden Smith joke that had me in stitches. Oh, and did I mention that there's a Wafflebot, and that it's awesome (want!)?

Kal Penn and John Cho slip easily back into their signature roles, and don't seem to have missed a beat (and the movie even playfully jabs at Penn's recent foray into politics). They've got a good supporting cast, too. There's the aforementioned Trejo, who does deadpan badassery like noone else. There's also Thomas Lennon as Harold's whitebread friend, Amir Blumenfeld as Kumar's dorky pal, and of course NPH, are all very funny. Lennon and Blumenfeld get a little lost in the shuffle once Harold and Kumar reunite, but NPH gives the movie some much-needed spark, right as it's starting to drag a bit around the 3/4 mark.

The 3D is gimmicky, but blatantly so. The movie even jokes about the fact that 3D has jumped the shark, but at least it has fun with the tech. Still, it may not be quite enough to justify the high ticket prices that 3D commands these days at the theater.

All in all, Harold & Kumar feels like a reunion with a bunch of old college buddies. Maybe not quite as awesome as you'd hoped, but it's still fun to hang out, laugh, and have some good times. The movie is hit and miss, but it's definitely filled with enough solid laughs to justify one (hopefully) last go-round.

My Grade: B

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