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Movie Review

A Very Harold & Kumar 3-D Christmas

March of the woozy stoners: A shameless holiday romp for Harold & Kumar

John Cho, as Harold, and Kal Penn, as Kumar, stumble through Christmas on a ragged road to adulthood. John Cho, as Harold, and Kal Penn, as Kumar, stumble through Christmas on a ragged road to adulthood. (Darren Michaels/Warner Brothers Pictures)
By Ty Burr
Globe Staff / November 4, 2011

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Leave it to a “Harold & Kumar’’ movie to expose modern 3-D for the tawdry gimmick it is while understanding that’s at least half the enjoyment. Early on in this unnecessary, drug-addled, and very funny sequel, a co-worker (Bobby Lee) of Harold’s turns to the camera, points to the audience, and assures us that the film’s 3-D will be “a-mazing.’’ He’s then pelted with eggs by Occupy Wall Street protesters. Say what you will, but these movies have their fingers on the pulse of the nation.

Or that part of the nation that still gets the munchies. I hate to spoil the fun, but maturity turns out to be the nagging subtext of this cheerfully ridiculous stoner farce. Several years on from their adventures at White Castle and Guantanamo Bay, Harold (John Cho) is married, living in suburbia, and working for the Man. Ex-roommate Kumar (Kal Penn) is still a happy Hoboken pothead until his girlfriend (Danneel Harris) announces she’s pregnant. Adulthood beckons (and about time, since Penn is in his mid-30s and Cho is pushing 40).

Adulthood will nevertheless have to wait another 90 minutes as the two contend with Harold’s angry, Christmas tree-obsessed father-in-law (Danny Trejo - Machete himself), the sex-crazed daughter (Jordan Hinson) of a violent Ukrainian gangster (Elias Koteas), Jesus Christ, Santa Claus (Richard Riehle), and many others. Because the “Harold & Kumar’’ universe seesaws so delicately between the subversively smart and the ineffably stupid, even the lamest jokes get a witty spin - and even the cleverest ideas can turn into groaners.

Since Christmas is the theme, the screenplay strings Yuletide parodies from scene to scene like so many ornamental doobies. At one point, our heroes find themselves transformed into Claymation puppets out of a ’60s TV special; at another, a classic moment from the much-loved “A Christmas Story’’ gets a particularly disgusting reprise.

The woozy strands of “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas’’ come together about an hour in during the movie’s high point, a 3-D Busby Berkeley-inspired musical extravaganza featuring Harold and Kumar as wooden soldiers and Neil Patrick Harris as - once again - a highly sociopathic version of himself. Yes, Harris died in the second movie. Death has always been a minor inconvenience here.

This is not a film for young children or their parents, even if some of them stumble into the theater expecting a family film. Neither group will recover from the sight of Santa’s candy-striped bong or the adorable little toddler (played by triplets Ashley, Chloe, and Hannah Coss) who accidentally ingests every drug the heroes come across and who becomes the movie’s most unforgivably amusing sight gag. She’s to this third film what the cheetah was to the first - a mark of how far and how successfully the filmmakers will go for a cheap laugh.

In their piling on of one surreal disaster after another, the “Harold & Kumar’’ movies might look to the uninitiated like “The Hangover’’ and its sad recent sequel. They replace the smugness of those films, though, with wonder at the strange ways of the un-stoned world and a belief that friendship can survive every flaming curveball. Which is good, because Harold and Kumar are on the verge of becoming responsible grown-ups. The real weirdness is just beginning.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.

Stoner movies
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Stoner movies

With the newest installment of the "Harold & Kumar," check out some smoking classics.

A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3-D CHRISTMAS Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson

Written by: Jon Hurwitz

and Hayden Schlossberg

Starring: Kal Penn, John Cho, Danny Trejo,

Neil Patrick Harris

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 90 minutes

Rated: R (strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use, and some violence)

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