A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (2011)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Buddy Film, Holiday Film, Stoner Comedy  |   Release Date - Nov 4, 2011 (USA - 3D), Nov 4, 2011 (USA)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Jason Buchanan

If hot boxing with Cheech and Chong was the closest you've ever come to getting a contact buzz at the movies, the haze that wafts from the screen in A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas will be enough to turn your eyes a jolly shade of red as you reach for another fistful of Jujubes in a fit of giggles. In addition to the amusing triple gimmick of being the very first 3D Christmas comedy for stoners, it's also an endearingly fun tale of renewed friendship that has both genuine heart, and one colossal clay-mation penis to boot.

It's been a long time since Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) escaped from Guantanamo Bay, and these days they're just not as tight as they used to be. But as they each prepare to celebrate Christmas Eve with their new best buds, Kumar receives a very special delivery that should have gone to Harold. Always the dutiful friend, Kumar does his best to see that the package reaches its intended destination by the time sleigh bells start ringing. Unfortunately, while making the delivery Kumar causes Harold's family Christmas tree to go up in flames. Thankfully for Harold, the in-laws are away for the evening, giving him just enough time to track down a replacement and avoid the wrath of his wife's temperamental father. With the clock counting down to Christmas and the family returning home soon, Harold and Kumar race through New York City on a mad dash to find the perfect substitute tree.

Once upon a time, Christmas movies were a family affair. But somewhere along the way -- perhaps with Silent Night, Deadly Night, or maybe with Die Hard -- movie producers realized there was good money to be made by catering specifically to the grown-up crowd as well. It wasn't long before Bad Santa was befouling the holiest of holidays, and now, Harold and Kumar take a shot at injecting a little irreverence into Christmas. The result, though it will likely never be played ad nauseam during the holidays thanks to a cocaine-addled toddler who makes Hunter S. Thompson look like a lightweight and twice as much male genitalia than A Christmas Story, is a spirited comedy that will almost certainly find a loyal cult following among more liberal-minded movie lovers. With extended gag scenes including a rollicking clay-mation segment and a hyper-stylized "plan" sequence that practically drenches viewers in Danny Trejo's DNA, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas does display brief flashes of comic inspiration, though it's ultimately better at maintaining a consistently merry vibe than it is at delivering gut-busting laughs.

Still, screenwriters Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg have been with the franchise since the very beginning. They know what fans want from the characters, and you can sense they're working hard to deliver without simply repeating themselves. A return appearance by series regular Neil Patrick Harris finds the writers having some fun with the actor's openly gay status while still playing up his ravenous appetite for debauchery and hard drugs; the aforementioned Trejo breathes some fresh life into the mix; and Wafflebot -- a hot-selling holiday toy -- manages to be simultaneously creepy and heroic while serving up some delicious syrupy treats. Reno 911! veteran Thomas Lennon scores some big laughs early on as the uptight father who has recently become Harold's new best friend, though he's all but forgotten once the estranged stoners get swept up in their quest to find the perfect Christmas tree.

Enduring friendships are a rare and precious thing, and for those who can manage to see through the thick cloud of smoke, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas does offer a heartwarming, fitfully hilarious tale of two pals who manage to rekindle a waning friendship after years of drifting apart. And while that might not have much to do with Christmas, it's a playful way to emphasize the value of good will in a time when some folks seem all too willing to let lasting friendships die without a fight.