One toke over the line

Harold & Kumar sputter into 3D irrelevance.

Harold and Kumar should have quit after escaping from Guantanamo, but instead the stoner buddies are back for more, though this time their main offense is being criminally unfunny.

In this 3D Christmas extravaganza, the two friends are reunited after years of growing apart. Harold (John Cho) is still the more “adult” of the two, and he’s got a steady job, a beautiful home and a loving wife (Paula Garces). However, that loving wife has a stereotypically intimidating father, Mr. Perez (played by the imposing Danny Trejo). While I love a hammy performance by Trejo, he and Cho’s relationship mirrors that of Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller’s in Meet the Parents — though at least that movie was funny.

Mr. Perez insists that Harold and his wife use the cherished family Christmas tree, a specimen that Perez has been growing for eight years. This is an important family tradition because of something or another, and it becomes Harold’s duty to protect the tree while Mr. Perez spends time with his daughter. He remains successful at this task for about an hour.

Enter Kumar (Kal Penn), who’s bitter over Harold’s newfound maturity. He intends to never see his ex-best pal again, but then a package addressed to Harold lands on his door. Kumar delivers the mail (which could only be a ’roided up joint), decides to smoke it for himself and ends up burning down Mr. Perez’s beloved Christmas tree. Harold and Kumar, at no point acting like normal human beings, then spend the night searching for an identical tree.

Shenanigans ensue, including a run-in with a gangster, getting a friend’s little girl high on all kinds of illicit drugs, and shooting Santa right in the noggin. All of these scenes get one or two big laughs (although the small child turning into a druggy went from funny to disturbing pretty fast), but too much of it falls flat for a film that’s appeal relies solely on hyperbolic humor and gags.

I understand and appreciate that the premise is intentionally outrageous. We have two midnight tokers who go through trippy, nonsensical experiences until they learn some absurdly profound life lesson. What makes a movie like this work is the audience feeling connected to the characters in some strange way. Bill and Ted, Jay and Silent Bob, Harold and Kumar circa 2004 were all relatable to viewers. Harold and Kumar in 2011 seem to be from another world.

The 3D doesn’t particularly enhance the viewing experience either. Having clouds of smoke blown in your direction isn’t desirable in real life, and I don’t see how having it happen for 90 minutes on the big screen is enjoyable. That being said, there are a few 3D gags worthwhile (one, involving a barrage of eggs, is very funny), but there’s a distinct lack of imagination in putting the 3D to use in any kind of entertaining way.

The one bursting positive of the film is Neil Patrick Harris, who’s once again delivers an epic, outrageous performance despite his screen time being much too short. Harris portrays himself as a womanizer who is only pretending to be gay so that he can get closer to women. It’s a brilliant turn, and hilariously well played.

Despite Harris’ antics, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas drew long, uncomfortable periods of silence from the audience, and no reaction is ultimately a bad reaction for a comedy. More consistent than the laughter was a regular cough coming from a baby in the front row. Who gave that baby a doobie? That’s just no fun for anyone involved …

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