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Movie review: 'A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas'

'Harold & Kumar' sequel is scattershot and dumb, but Neil Patrick Harris is good.

November 04, 2011|By Michael Phillips, Tribune Newspapers critic
  • John Cho (Harold) and Kal Penn (Kumar) in a scene from "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas."
John Cho (Harold) and Kal Penn (Kumar) in a scene from "A Very Harold… (Darren Michael / Warner…)

Comic effrontery is the Bic that lights the bong in the "Harold & Kumar" movies, but willfully strained outrageousness can turn sour like that.

For a definition of "that," there's "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas," the weakest of the three. Here, the boy-men — now 30-ish men-boys, dealing with adult concerns and relationships, in addition to their perpetual White Castle jones — hunt down a Christmas tree, mix it up with Ukranian gangsters, briefly turn into Claymation-type animated versions of themselves, consort with virgins and meet Santa. And reunite with Neil Patrick Harris, who leads a lascivious Rockettes-style musical number. Which has its moments. Unlike the movie surrounding it.

The whole point of these films is that they're scattershot and willing to try any stupid thing they can. (Todd-Strauss-Schulson, making his feature debut, directed the new one, in 3-D; it was written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schossberg, who gave us the worthwhile one, "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" in 2004, and the first disappointing sequel, "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay" in 2008.) A dispirited air, however, smothers the fun from the start this time. Tense, bourgeois Harold (John Cho) and unemployed slacker Kumar (Kal Penn) reunite and the movie engineers the realization they're destined to be BFFs as long as the sequels hold out.

They may be holding out but they're not exactly holding up. The chief running gag concerns an infant who accidentally ingests cocaine and other substances. Is that even funny in theory?

The first "H&K" caught people off-guard with its canny idiocy and zigzagging, treasure hunt premise. By now, there's no catching anyone off-guard with these two, except by way of the most off-color and off-putting means possible. Harris, at least, brings a cynical brio to his scenes. But the 3-D only makes the general not-funniness that much closer.

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