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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas


A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (Two and a Half Stars)

U.S.: Todd Strauss-Schulson (2011)

 Comedy sometimes thrives on taboos transgressed and sacred cows slaughtered, and very few cows are left standing after the irreverent and cheerfully offensive bad taste orgy that is A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. The movie, a comedy that made me laugh (or at least didn’t keep serving up clunkers, like many comedies these days) marks the return of those hapless stoner White Castle-loving cut-ups, Korean-American good-guy Harold (John Cho) and Indian-American weed-head Kumar (Kal Penn), putting them through another night of comic hell, fueled by mishaps, mayhem and massive ingestion of various controlled substances, especially (but not exclusively) marijuana.

 This is the kind of Christmas Eve that might have tested the mettle of even Jimmy Stewart’s guardian angel Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life. As Harold & Kumar try to survive, Christmas trees are burned down, Santa Claus is shot down from the skies, vehicles overturn (with our heroes inside), Ukrainian gangsters and drug dealers run wild, virgins are deflowered and Neil Patrick Harris shows up to do a reprise of his outrageous series character “Neil Patrick Harris,” singing and dancing with Harold & Kumar in a sizzling Busby Berkeley style Yuletide number, with Harris once again pretending to be “Harris,” a sex maniac and publicity-whoring ham.

 Six years have passed since Harold & Kumar’s last movie outing, 2008’s Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. (Yeah, I know it doesn’t add up.) They’ve drifted apart as best buds — Harold to become a yuppified Wall Street wuss and Kumar to continue trying to stay perpetually stoned. But they meet again, and things start going wrong immediately. A Christmas gift to Harold of a huge joint (brought by Kumar after it arrives in his mail) accidentally burns down the beloved 12-foot-tall Douglas fir Christmas tree, brought over to the home of Harold and his wife Maria (Paula Garces) by Harold’s mean, picky father-in Law Mr. Perez (Danny Trejo, in his “mean as hell” key), who doesn’t like Maria‘s choice. Our guys then start an epic race around town trying to find a replacement.

 While our guys chase the spirit of Christmas through one catastrophe after another, a blizzard of scatological gags and ethnic jokes about Jewish and African-Americans, Asians, Caucasians, Ukrainians, gays and innumerable others spew out at us with the regularity — since the movie is in 3D — of the objects being hurled at the camera and us in all three dimensions, including claymation penises, fake jism, fake cocaine and fake ganja smoke. (It’s a good thing William Castle — no relation to White — never got hold of this material, or he might have tried to publicize the show by devising the new audience participation projection device Marijuana-Rama, and gotten the entire theatre arrested). If you’ve been wondering about the right way to use 3D, this movie has what seems an inspired suggestion: Kid the Hell out of it.

 You may laugh. (You may not.) I did. But will you be offended? Perhaps. The movie tries very hard to trample on the sensibilities of everyone possible and its pieces de resistance de bad taste are definitely the nude lesbian nun orgy and the scene in the Ukrainian drug czar’s (Elias Koteas) lush digs where a three year old accidentally ingests part of a cloud of cocaine. Otherwise A Very H&K becomes almost sentimental about friendship and marriage and Harold and Kumar getting together again, and about Santa Claus (Richard Riehle), that old red-suited rascal, who turns out to be a pot aficionado himself, and who keeps ho-ho-hoing even when people accidentally take potshots at his sleigh and put a bullet in his sack arm.

 Kal Penn and John Cho are one of the more unusual comedy teams around; they don’t fill the classic roles of the smoothie and the hysteric or dummy, which applies to most teams from Abbott and Costello and Martin and Lewis to Cheech and Chong. Or at least they don‘t here. Instead they’re a couple of innocents puffing away, hurled into the comic inferno of big city chaos. They’re screw-ups, but endearing ones — though not as endearing as the Wafflebot, a tender-hearted little robot who makes waffles and develops a crush on one of the boys.

 The movie was directed by new-to-the-series Todd Strauss-Schulson and written by old hands Ron Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who’ve scripted all three Harold & Kumars. (Hurwitz directed the second.) Laughter is sometimes subversive but A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas cheerfully suggests that sex and drugs are fit subjects for comedy (not exactly a radical concept in today’s Hollywood), and also that marriage and pregnancy have their charms, even in a stoned bromance.

 Is it mentally or morally healthy to laugh at jokes about ganja, sex between teenagers, burning Christmas trees and the backstage antics of “Neil Patrick Harris?“ (Bring back Doogie Howser.) Who knows? Meanwhile, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas won’t erase your memories of either It’s a Wonderful Life or Up in Smoke. But it may make you laugh without inhaling — as long as you don’t see it in Ganja-Scope or Marijuana-Rama.

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So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
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~ David Simon