A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

“The third time’s the charm.”  Rarely is this phrase ever correct.  It certainly isn’t when I’m stuck on a level of Angry Birds.  Ask an inventor, a football coach and a physicist if the third time they tried to create something, win a championship and solve the mysteries of the universe they succeeded.  More often than not, the answer will be no.  Can you guess where this is leading when this week’s movie is the third installment of the stoner series featuring a couple of buddies named Harold and Kumar?
Since last we saw them, life has led Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) in different directions.  Harold is married to Maria (Paula Garces), has a good paying job at a Wall Street firm, a devoted assistant named Kenneth (Bobby Lee) and lives in a big house in the suburbs.  Kumar is still living in the apartment the guys once shared, is no longer trying to become a doctor, is still looking for the best marijuana high he can find and hasn’t shaved since his girlfriend Vanessa (Danneel Harris) dumped him three months earlier.  Maria’s large family including her father, Mr. Perez (Danny Trejo), is coming to spend Christmas at Harold’s home.  Mr. Perez has brought a Christmas tree he has grown himself to replace Harold and Maria’s artificial tree.  Tension between Harold and Mr. Perez seems to be growing by the second which Harold blames on Mr. Perez’s mother being attacked by a gang of Koreans when he was a boy.  Kumar’s buzz is crunched when Vanessa arrives to pick up the last of her things and announces she is pregnant with his child.  The pair split due to Kumar’s immaturity and unwillingness to change.  The two haven’t seen each other in a couple of years, but when a package arrives for Harold at the apartment, Kumar meets with his old friend for an uncomfortable reunion.  Their get together leads to Mr. Perez’ Christmas tree catching on fire and a frantic race to replace it on Christmas Eve before the entire clan returns from midnight mass.  Along the way, they encounter Neil Patrick Harris, a violent Russian mobster and his obnoxious children, a waffle-making robot and Santa Claus (Richard Riehle).  In other words, it’s just another day with Harold and Kumar.
“A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” shares a fatal flaw with the first installment of the series and several other comedies:  It’s not that funny.  It works very hard to be a raucous, no holds barred comedy.  It throws every comedic idea at the audience hoping to strike the funny bone with a thunderous blow.  Unfortunately, it usually only taps it gently eliciting mild chuckles or wry smiles.
With no subject safe, the movie has a teenagers’ house party devolve into an orgy of sex, drink and drugs of Roman proportions.  A three-year old girl is inadvertently introduced to the wonders of pot, cocaine and ecstasy.  Nubile young nuns are shown showering together.  Priests are tempted with an altar boy pillow fight.  Santa nearly gets his head blown off with a shotgun and later is shown taking a bong hit.  Harold’s privates get frozen to a metal light pole (don’t ask).  These are just a few of the outrageous antics in the film.  Yet none of them is pulled off in ways generating a ton of laughs.  The movie does have a few funny moments early on that lead me to believe the humor was going to get cranked up.  Unfortunately, these were a ruse to get me interested while the rest of the jokes and set pieces under delivered.
Perhaps most disappointing was the segment featuring Neil Patrick Harris as a version of himself who is pretending to be gay in order to make women feel he’s not a threat.  Part of this section shows Harris committing what would probably be classified as a sexual assault on a woman.  Harris’ parts in the first two films were something of a highlight with the actor playing against type as a drug-addled sex fiend.  Here, he just comes off as smug, creepy and cruel.  The previews and commercials also give the impression Harris is a big part of the movie which is not the case.  
The movie’s 3D gimmick is put to good use on several occasions with flaming Christmas trees, shards of glass, drops of blood and clumps of cocaine along with other items hurtling towards the audience at various times.  The visual trickery is even referenced and made fun of in an early scene; but, does it add anything to the storytelling or the quality of the film?  The answer is no.  While you may wonder what the flaming Christmas tree or a part of a claymated Kumar’s anatomy (again, don’t ask) might look like in 3D, the answers aren’t really worth the extra cash.
“A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” is rated R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.  I’ve covered much of the sex and drugs in the review.  Harold and Kumar are nearly set on fire.  The waffle robot spews boiling hot syrup that is shown blistering a man’s skin.  Foul language constitutes the majority of the script.
While I wasn’t a big fan of “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” I did enjoy “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.”  The second film of the series was a more consistent comedy with better laughs.  One of the strengths of all the films is the chemistry and believability of the friendship between the title characters and that is even more evident here.  Sadly, this third film seems to confuse mayhem with humor.  It can be funny, but not in this case.
“A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” gets three sad guitars out of five.
Greek gods, king makers and twins are heading to theatres this week.  Vote for the next movie I see and review.
Immortals—A warrior named Theseus must lead the fight against the ruthless King Hyperion and his evil army for the fate of mankind.
J. Edgar—Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the story of J. Edgar Hoover, the fascinating figure behind the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Jack and Jill— Adam Sandler stars as a family man who dreads one event every year: the Thanksgiving visit of his identical twin sister.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres.
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
If you have a question of comment, send it to stanthemovieman@att.net.  Follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.