For those about to smoke, we salute you.


Theatrical Release Date: 11/04/2011
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Cast: John Cho, Kal Penn, Tom Lennon, Paula Garcés, Neil Patrick Harris, Danny Trejo, Danneel Harris, Eddie Kaye Thomas, David Krumholtz, Bobby Lee, Elias Koteas
Rated: R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes


Trailer:

It’s a quasi-funny story how we got here.

As a child, watching “Jaws 3D” on the big screen pretty much nixed any idea of becoming a marine biologist. This had nothing to do with Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett, Jr., or Lea Thompson. And although it was polarized 3D – not anaglyph, which requires red/(green, blue, or cyan) glasses – only certain scenes really utilized the effect (and scarred at least one child into a lifelong fear of the ocean).

Why am I talking about a 28 year-old film’s three-dimensional gimmick? Well, because I was reminded of the experience after watching “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas”. Of course, this time there is no shark (or Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett, Jr., or Lea Thompson), however the use of the technology echoed the same basic principles: Find certain elements to punch up in 3D but don’t worry about creating true depth of field for the entire film.

Early on, director Todd Strauss-Schulson (whose previous credits read like a string of nonsense words and anyone familiar with more than two of his efforts would scare me) focuses on the pot smoke. As Kumar (Kal Penn) gets high with a mall Santa (Patton Oswalt), a combination of actual smoke and digital smoke is wafted in the audience’s general direction. Then, some protestors chuck eggs at Harold (John Cho) and his assistant (Bobby Lee) – this is the best 3D of the film … and lasts 90 seconds. Later on, some careless driving will shoot a few of those water-filled barriers you see marking construction zones into the camera and every now and then something else technically qualifies as 3D.

Now, I realize anyone familiar with my take on 3D knows I generally see it as a cash grab and only a handful of films in this latest resurgence of the craze merit spending the extra cash. And I’m not saying you should definitely avoid seeing this film with a set a polarized 3D lenses (should there even be 2D versions in theaters). If you’re a big fan of the series and have been eagerly awaiting this installment, you might as well experience it as the filmmakers intended. However, if you’re like myself, and found “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” a far better value at home than in-theater, you may want to take the same approach here.

Sure, there’s something about seeing a Harold & Kumar film in an audience full of stoners, but that’s only going to happen in the first day or two of wide release. If you’re not going to be a part of that experience, waiting to watch it in the comfort of your own home with whatever refreshments you deem necessary is a better value. This is partially due to certain restrictions in state or Federal law but also because like the second installment in the franchise, the movie is uneven.

Think of this Christmas tale as a roller coaster – with a few good loops and turns but a lot of transitional elements to get you to the next set-up. Sure, bringing in Danny Trejo as Harold’s father-in-law is unmitigated awesomeness. And anyone who isn’t waiting with bated breath for NPH’s appearance can’t possibly be a fan of the series (or life). Also, if I have to explain NPH, just move along, this is not the film you’re looking for.

But aside from those elements, the attempt to deliver a Christmas miracle by bringing Harold & Kumar back together after their friendship drifted apart since we last saw them creates a schism in the type of film being presented. It’s part raunchy, drug-filled comedy and part feel-good holiday movie. There is a way to do both (“Bad Santa”) but sadly the overall result with “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” is a generally entertaining production that hits as often as it misses, getting a 3 out of 5. What made the first film so much fun was watching these two stoners run amok while high out of their minds and far too much of this film sees the pair stone cold sober. And that’s no way to enjoy the holidays.

3 out of 53D Maybe