It’s impossible to celebrate Christmas until a couple of estranged stoners, on a mission to replace a Christmas tree, journey through New York City on Christmas Eve and encounter a violent Eastern European drug lord, become claymation characters after drinking spiked eggnog, join a stage performance of The Nutcracker starring Neil Patrick Harris, are saved from certain death by a lovestruck waffle making robot and accidentally shoot Santa. Although this film is puerile, offensive and morally questionable, it is certainly the most fun of any of the Christmas films I have watched so far and probably the one that most successfully contains some kind of Christmas cheer.
This is probably a good time to mention that the original Christmas film randomly chosen for today was Louis Malle’s Au Revoir Les Enfants, which I hadn’t seen in some years and didn’t remember as being particularly Christmassy, but as it shows up in numerous searches as a “Christmas movie”, it was on the list. After rewatching it, I can confirm that it is a masterwork of cinema and one in which no one mentions or even vaguely alludes to Christmas at any point. As best as I can piece together, the film opens as the children are returning to school after the Christmas holidays have ended and this apparently makes it a Christmas film in some way. Anyway, as a result of this I decided not to write about Malle’s film, but randomly pick a second “Christmas movie” to watch today and that turned out to be the considerable more festive A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. Obviously this made for quite the bizarre “Double Feature” with Au Revoir Les Enfants which in itself probably had somewhat of an impact on my reaction to the film.
It’s probably not really essential to have seen the previous two films in the Harold and Kumar trilogy prior to watching A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, all of the background you really need to know is that Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) smoke a lot of weed, which is the catalyst for increasingly bizarre adventures that at some point will make them cross paths with the dangerously drug fuelled, violent and the highly sexual ladies’ man Neil Patrick Harris (Neil Patrick Harris). A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas picks up the story of Harold and Kumar at Christmas six years after Harold and Kumar escaped from Guantanamo Bay in Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, which began the day after Harold and Kumar went to White Castle in Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle.
The film opens on a slovenly and bearded Kumar at a toyshop pushing in on the queue to see Santa. After an angry mother in the line shouts “Hey! Back of the line, Tech Support!”, Kumar responds with “Take it easy, Reba. Your little boy can rub his ass on Santa’s cock in a minute”, before sitting on Santa’s lap and punching him in the balls. So I guess a minute or so in, most viewers would have a fair idea of whether they want to keep viewing or not. Once he takes his beard off, the store Santa is revealed to be Patton Oswalt who is Kumar’s dealer. Inspecting the various bags of weed in the back of Oswalt’s car, Kumar makes his choice from the selection of Christmas themed options (such as “It’s A Weederful Life”) and he and Santa get high smoking through Santa’s pipe and blowing 3D smoke rings at the screen.
We are then introduced to Harold who is a successful Wall Street banker, watching the protestors outside chanting “Wall Street Sucks”. In one of the goofier sequences in a very goofy movie, Harold’s assistant Kenneth has been given the task of finding the perfect Christmas present for Harold to give to his father in law, which Kenneth reveals to be “Sharp 52″ Aquos Quattron TV with state-of-the-art 3D technology that makes Avatar look Avatar-ded”, to which Harold responds “I don’t know hasn’t the whole 3D thing jumped the shark by now?”. Kenneth then says “Mr. Lee, you don’t understand. This is the best 3D you’ve ever seen. It’s gonna be amazing!” before inanely grinning and giving two thumbs up straight at the camera and holding them there for a very, very long time”. Perplexed Harold says “Who are you looking at?”. On the way out of the building they get eggs thrown at them in slow motion 3D by the protestors, with Kenneth going down in a barrage of eggs, filmed like the death of Elias in Platoon (spoiler) as Harold escapes in his uptight friend Todd’s car.
After coming home to find his obnoxious friend Adrian has been renting out his toilet for homeless people to use, we discover that since the last film Kumar has been thrown out of medical school for failing a drug test and that he hasn’t shaved since Vanessa left him a few months earlier “Like Ryan Gosling in The Notebook”. After declining an invitation from Adrian to go to a party using the wholly reasonable excuse “I’ve got to stay home and smoke this weed or else I won’t get high!”, Vanessa tells him that she is pregnant with his child.
After Harold and Todd make a quick stop at White Castle to get some “comfort food” we learn that Harold’s father is a “huge fan of Christmas” and that he is desperate to make everything perfect for Christmas. We see that Harold’s house is covered with a collection of ostentatious Christmas decorations. Maria’s father arrives and we see that he is none other than Danny Trejo dressed in a ludicrous Christmas tree sweater, after flatly greeting him with “Hello Harold”, he sees the giant white Christmas tree and shouts “What is that? Is that fake?”, after being informed that it’s “faux, actually”, Maria’s father demands to know “Are you celebrating real Christmas or a faux Christmas?”. We then see that the “whole family is here!” as about twenty relatives are outside, one of whom has face tatts and makes a throat slitting motion at Harold who nervously says “Oh I guess Timo made parole”, before Maria’s father says “Not exactly” and hands him the camera so they can take a family photo saying “You people are good with these”. Looking at Harold’s Christmas tree again, Maria’s father informs Harold that “The tree is a cancer, Harold. We have to get rid of it before it kills Christmas”. Explaining why Christmas trees are so important in a flashback where a pony-tailed and Moustachioed child sees his mother returning home with their first Christmas tree “violently killed by a gang of Korean punks”. He has brought his own treasured Christmas tree that he has grown himself and responsibility is left with Harold to decorate it.
Finding a large parcel out the front of his apartment addressed to Harold, Kumar decides to deliver it to his house. Harold sees him and the two talk briefly and appear to have nothing in common anymore. Harold opens the parcel to see that it contains a velvet lined chest containing a single giant reefer. Kumar lights it up and Harold throws it out the window as there’s no smoking allowed in his house as Harold is telling Kumar that he doesn’t smoke anymore and Kumar interjects “But Harold, weed is soooo good it gets you high”, the reefer charts a solid slow motion 3D trajectory out one window and back in through another and onto the Christmas tree where it catches on fire as the two argue. After the Christmas tree is destroyed, Kumar helpfully points out “Dude that’s why you’ve got to buy those faux trees. They last forever”. Harold tells Kumar that he has “ruined Christmas” and throws him out of his house.
After Kumar and Adrian buy and accidentally destroys the one remaining possible replacement tree (which had been reserved by Todd for Harold), the four of them (plus Todd’s very young daughter) venture into New York together as they see the perfect Christmas tree in the background of a video that Adrian has of the girl throwing the party, who he claims has said they can take the tree. The girl throwing the party is the daughter of the notoriously violent Eastern European drug kingpin Sergei Katsov who is desperate to lose her virginity, but as every male she knows is so terrified of her father that they are unable to perform. Adrian finds himself in the same position and eventually she gives up on him and goes down into the party and attempts to rape Harold. As Kumar attempts to help (“Uh, miss, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to let you rape my friend on Christmas Eve”), the three of them are caught in a compromising position and her father orders that they be killed. Everyone flees the party, except for Adrian and Todd who are trapped in a cupboard, with Todd’s daughter who has accidentally consumed a lot of cocaine and is acting erratically.
As a result of drinking some spiked eggnog at the party, after they escape the apartment Harold and Kumar find themselves as claymation characters in a claymation New York City, with a claymation squirrel being chased by a giant claymation abominable snowman. Once they return from the claymation world, they are dragged through a stage door and told that their smoke break finished ten minutes ago. Dressed as toy soldiers they are on stage in a musical extravaganza featuring “America’s Sweetheart: Neil Patrick Harris”. After he finishes the performance, NPH explains that he is pretending to be gay “for the p-tang”, before being distracted by a bag of crack. Telling Harold and Kumar that after he died in the previous movie, Jesus threw him out of Heaven for stealing his women. He then gives Harold a perfect tree and Kumar a Wafflebot, before farewelling them with “See you in the fourth one”.
The two are captured by two of the Eastern European mafia thugs and are rescued from certain death by the Wafflebot. After Harold explains that he only stopped smoking weed because he thought it decreased fertility, he fires one of the gangster’s guns in the air and accidentally shoots down Santa’s sleigh. After Kumar treats Santa’s wounds, he explains that their present was the giant reefer at the beginning of the film which was designed to bring them back together. When Harold gets home he stands up to Maria’s father and earns his respect by proving that he’s “not some pussy”. Vanessa and Kumar reconcile with him even promising to give up weed, to which she responds “Do me a favour don’t quit weed, just remember next time you take a drug test, use my pee”. The movie ends with Santa flying off smoking a bong, having replaced Harold’s Christmas tree to the joy of Maria’s father who pats Harold on the back and Timo who says “God bless us, everyone” (far more successfully than the little kid in Scrooged).
It is worth noting that I watched the unrated “Extended Cut” of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas in 2D, consequently the experience of this film may well be quite variable depending on how and what version you watch. Not having seen this in 3D, I can’t vouch for how the film works with that technology, but watching the film in 2D, it is apparent that the 3D technology is virtually a character in the film and a character that is being rather ruthlessly mocked. The effects are so exaggerated, ludicrous and hilarious that, to me, watching them in 2D makes them possibly funnier and leaves me thinking that it may be the best way to watch the film. This is an excellent Christmas movie, but given the pretty high levels of drug use, profanity, violence and nudity, it’s probably not really a great “Family Christmas Movie”. Even though A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas should almost certainly not be watched by anyone under the age of 16 and probably also shouldn’t be watched by about 99% of the people over that age, I thoroughly enjoyed it and give it eight out of nine reindeer.