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 30ish 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 Ukrainian 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 under duress 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 a tremendous amount of cocaine and other substances over the course of the 90-minute misadventure. Is that even funny in theory?
The first H&K caught people off-guard with its canny idiocy and zigzagging, picaresque 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.