Greg Tyler

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Christmas 2014: A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

Part of the series Christmas 2014

It's another drug-filled journey as our two favourite stoners now try and save Christmas.

Christmas spirit

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ I'm guessing this is one of the ones I'm going to have arguments about.

Something I often consider in this category of how central a role Christmas plays in the plot and narrative. Inarguably, in 3D Christmas, the festive season is key to everything that's going on. The plot centres around the acquisition of a suitable Christmas tree, and the timeframe is set by the family being out at midnight mass. Christmas parties, gifts and Santa then play a central role.

The message of the film is set through Harold's development, as he realises that the important thing about Christmas is to be with family and friends, to forgive others and yourself; and how sweating the details is a needless distraction in this goal. In the end all the characters have a great Christmas, despite all they've been through, because they're all together. That, to my mind, is what Christmas is all about.

However, I see pot more as a summer drug.

Ho-ho-who's in it?

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ John Cho and Kal Penn have been through a lot since their original drug-infused trip to Whitecastle. Cho has done the acting rounds, featuring as Sulu in the 2009 Star Trek rebirth and its sequel (as well as featuring across scores of films and television series). Meanwhile Penn, having spent two season on House, has taken up the position of Associate Director at the White House Office of Public Engagement. As such, it's really impressive to see them both reprise such irreverent roles.

There are some strong references to the development of the past years from Adrian (CollegeHumor's Amir Blumenfeld) who remarks of Harold "Can we drop this tree off at Sulu's and head to the city?" and explains to Kumar that "I told her you work for the White House", with the Associate Director responding "Yeah, like anyone's gonna believe that."

Cast of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

Going up? John Cho and Kal Penn (middle) reprise their roles as Harold and Kumar, joined this time out by Thomas Lennon (left) and Amir Blumenfeld (right)

We also see a return of Neil Patrick Harris, who does a fantastic job of playing a character who's less of a self-parody and more of a complete reversal, shunning his homosexuality (he came out after the original Harold & Kumar) as a ruse "for the p-tang". Harris's real-life partner David Burtka also features this time around, further cementing the pretension that their relationship is a sham. He's a really fun character that NPH brings a strange believability to.

There's also Danny Trejo, as Harold's nightmare father-in-law. This is a genius bit of casting, as Trejo moves between his traditional, aggressive hard-man image, and that of a doting father who loves Christmas. Seeing him smile at the sight of a Christmas tree is the most unnerving moment of the production. In fact, I'd put this up as one of Trejo's best films. It's no Machete, but he totally owns the character.

The rest of the background cast is strong too. Amir Blumenfeld makes a great debut, Rosenberg and Goldstein return briefly for a few laughs, and Jake Johnson (him off New Girl) and Patton Oswalt make solid cameos. Wafflebot is very enjoyable too, proving a key member of the ensemble.

Family fun

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ 3D Christmas is an 18, which fairly promptly rules out the original intention of this category. For those wondering, and presumably not paying attention, the BBFC cites the reasoning as "contains frequent drug use" which, considering a young child has a bad cocaine trip, isn't one bit surprising.

What brings the marks up slightly here is that I honestly think the humour, clearly aimed at the teenage/stoner audience, has some legs. There are plenty of jokes my dad (who is very much not a teenager or stoner) would find very entertaining and, liberal sex/drug-humour aside, the tone of the film is very warm and cheery. Even when not hilarious, it's amusing.

I would note though that it's not a film for the "easily offended" or even the "moderately easily offended". But, heck, that doesn't mean some of the family won't appreciate it.

Jingle bells

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ You know, there are a lot of Christmas tunes in 3D Christmas. It opens with "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" and ends on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". More importantly, it doesn't mess with them. By which I mean, it doesn't do this horrible comedic trope of interrupting a piece of music to make a contrast. Like I said in the first section of this review, the Christmas spirit is honestly heartfelt.

There's also a solid soundtrack, which features what I always refer to as the "Die Hard school of Christmas music", where traditional tunes are merged into the soundtrack. For example, this track (Spotify) which merges Carol of the Bells with a heist theme. For me, this sort of composition is always a huge win in this category.

And on top of all of that, a lot of the soundtrack features sleigh bells. What more could you want?

Overall

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I'm honestly surprised. I was delaying this one because I assumed I'd hate it. On the surface, it's a cheap cash-in on the popular franchise, the readily-accessible Christmas movie market and the rise of the 3D gimmick (which is self-referenced a few times). But it's funny, nice and carries a sincere message. The humour is certainly not everyone's tastes, but if you enjoy lewd irreverent humour then this might just be the Christmas film for you.

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