MRR Movie Review: A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

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The third installment in the Harold & Kumar film series and the sequel to 2004's Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Six years after their Guantanamo Bay adventure, estranged stoner buds Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) cause a holiday fracas by inadvertently burning down Harold's father-in-law's prize Christmas tree.
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Movie Review: "A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas"

-- Rating: R
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: November 4, 2011
Directed By: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Genre: Comedy

"Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" was a surprise hit when it landed in theaters in 2004. The film followed two marijuana-smoking characters on a quest to find hamburgers in the middle of the night. The film grossed more than $18 million in the United States alone, which led to the sequel "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" in 2008. That film grossed more than twice the original did, leading to a holiday-themed sequel starring the same two characters.

"A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas" opens by explaining how much each character changed from the last film. Kumar (Kal Penn, "The Namesake") still lives in the same apartment from the other films, he dropped out of medical school, and his girlfriend Vanessa (Danneel Harris, "One Tree Hill") broke up with him. Harold (John Cho, "Star Trek") married Maria (Paula Garcés, "Clockstoppers"), the girl he had a crush on in the first film. He has a successful job and lives in a large mansion.

The two men seldom talk because their lives are so different, and Maria lets the viewers know that Harold didn't even invite Kumar to their Christmas party. When Kumar stops by with a package that came to the apartment for Harold, the two find themselves on a mission to buy a new Christmas tree. With the same comedic sense of timing and great acting, the film captures the feel of the first film.

Fans of the series will appreciate the longer turn by Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother") in this film. Playing a fictionalized version of himself, he explains how he faked his death in the last film; here he garners some of the biggest laughs. As the lead in a holiday-themed stage show, his best moments come when he's on stage and hiding in his dressing room. He still can't get Harold's name right and he still can't function without a woman by his side. This time, however, he's accompanied by an adorable little waffle-making robot.

Harris even shares the screen with his real-life partner David Burtka ("How I Met Your Mother"). Burtka plays a fictionalized version of himself, explaining that he is actually a drug dealer who supplies Harris. The two pretend that they are gay to cover up their real relationship. Though he only appears for a few minutes, Burtka makes a big impression.

Harris isn't the only character from the earlier films who makes an appearance in this film, but Andy (Eddie Kaye Thomas, "American Pie Reunion") and Seth (David Krumholtz, "The Santa Clause") also come back. They play the now-married friends of Harold and Kumar. The film also injects some new life into the franchise with the addition of Todd (Thomas Lennon, "Reno 911"), a man who works with Harold and finds himself trapped in their crazy world. Patton Oswalt ("King of Queens") also shows up as a male Santa who sometimes deals to Kumar.

The addition of those characters provides some humor without distracting from the relationship between Harold and Kumar, which is the heart of the film. Harold is the serious one who would never find the lighter side of life without his crazy best friend. This film makes that clear in the opening scenes when Harold attempts to live without Kumar. He has the perfect house, the great job and the beautiful wife, but he comes across as a little dull and boring. Kumar is wild and crazy, but he needs the stability of Harold to function. In the early scenes, he does things without thinking it through, which explains why he is alone during the holidays.

The chemistry between Penn and Cho is amazing to watch. They play off each other perfectly, finishing each other's sentences and working together to get laughs. Penn took a break from acting to work for the government, but this film shows that he needs to keep acting. He plays a slacker like no one else can, and that characters is the perfect foible for the straight-laced Harold.

"A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas" has all the elements of a classic holiday tale. There are the problems in the beginning that disrupt the lives of the main characters, the slapstick humor that makes viewers laugh, the cameos from famous faces and even a few songs that will make viewers tap their feet. While the film is part of the "Harold & Kumar" franchise, it also serves as a standalone addition with a basic storyline that anyone can follow. "A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas" might not be the best holiday film in the world, but it will delight fans and comedy lovers.

Rating: 3 out of 5