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A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/7/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/3/2012
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Most genres have sub-genres and it seems that comedy has the most. The stoner-comedy first came about during the counter-culture movement of the 1960s. (1936's Reefer Madness may seem like a comedy, but it was meant to be a serious deterrent.) These early films were often silly romps where the drug use took a backseat to other shenanigans. It wasn't until 1978 that Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke the stoner movie had a real identity. Since that time, these movies have gone in and out of vogue. 2004's Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle put a new spin and new face on the genre, bringing it to a new generation. The movie only did OK at the box office, but it found new life on home video and a series from born. A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas is the third of these films and it shows that the series has no interest in maturing.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas takes place some two years after the events ofHarold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) have parted ways and haven't seen each other since their last adventure. Harold now works on Wall Street and lives in the suburbs with his wife, Maria (Paula Garces). He's now friends with Todd (Tom Lennon), a wet blanket, and he worries about impressing his father-in-law (Danny Trejo). Kumar still lives in the same apartment and still gets high. His girlfriend, Vanessa (Danneel Ackles), has dumped him and he's no longer in med school. When a package for Harold arrives at the door, Kumar decides to take it to his old friend. Their reunion is awkward and not helped by the fact that there's an accident with Harold's Christmas tree. Thus, a quest, with Todd and Kumar's buddy, Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld), in tow, begins to find a new tree. Just as in the past, Harold and Kumar will find that this seemingly simple task delivers all sort of problems, such as mobsters, robots, and Saint Nick himself.
The Harold & Kumar movies are an odd lot, and I don't mean the film's contents. I've seen all three movies in the series and I've had the exact same reaction to each one -- I'm never bored, I appreciate the risks they are taking, but I rarely laugh out loud. I find them humorous and I see where all of the jokes are coming from, but the movies simply aren't as funny as I would like for them to be. Is this because I don't really get the whole "stoner comedy" thing? Is it because I'm not in an altered state when I watch the movies? I don't think that's it, as I certainly enjoy other absurdly comic films. There's just some odd element which keeps the Harold & Kumar movies from getting over the hump.
But, that doesn't mean that there aren't things to like in A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas. First of all, the plotting is certainly a step in the right direction. The first two films were basically one long story which took place over a series of days. For this new movie, the story has introduced the idea that time has passed and Harold and Kumar have grown apart. Yes, we've seen this plot device used in other movies, but it works here, as it amplifies the personality differences between the two characters. (Making them each individuals with their own traits is one of the series' best qualities.) Having them reunite also provides an organic place from which the story can grow. Also, having Thomas "Tom" Lennon join the cast was a good idea. He is a master of playing characters who are slightly dim-witted yet have a superior attitude, and his portrayal of Todd brings a new level of comedy to the movie. He is the straight man who was missing in the other films. Are the jokes about Todd's baby cheap? Yes, but they work. I also liked the inclusion of Wafflebot. In a film which features many traits reminiscent of the first two movies, this was a truly bizarre and inspired idea which is planted early and then comes to life about half-way through the movie.
Despite all of the wackiness and boundary pushing going on in the Harold & Kumar movies, they are perhaps best known for their cameos from one Neil Patrick Harris, or "NPH" as he's called in the movies. In Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, Harris was playing a very exaggerated character who is nothing like his public persona -- a womanizing, drug-using sex addict and misogynist who travels the country looking for a good time. It was both funny and shocking to see him doing this. In A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, this concept is taken to the next level. I won't ruin the scene, but if you don't know who the guy is with Harris, then you aren't going to get the joke. The one scene with Harris (which is far too short) has him skewering himself in a new way, and those who keep up with him will find it funny.
So, in the end, what do we have with A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas? The movie makes the wise choice of not resting on its laurels and brining some new elements to the story, most dealing with maturing and responsibility. But, at the same time, it's simply another wacky Harold and Kumar adventure. The movie has some funny moments, and the cast is clearly game for anything, but the film is never truly laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe the next one will finally bring those belly-laughs which I'm looking for.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas probably has the fewest references to marijuana of any movie in the series on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc carries an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 29 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, most notably bold primary colors, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The overall crispness of the image provides it with a good level of detail where we an distinguish textures on objects. The image also shows off good depth, as the actors are clearly separated from the background. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. Be advised, this track is only available on the THEATRICAL EDITION of the movie. The EXTENDED CUT only has a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The DTS-HD track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound effects are very good, most notably in the action scenes. The egg-throwing sequence near the beginning shows off some very good surround action. The stereo effects are nicely done as well, as they show good separation and detail. The car crashes and gunshots provide well-time subwoofer effects.
The A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. "Through the Haze with Tom Lennon" is made up of six brief faux on-set interviews with the actor who gives his views on the movie. There are some laughs here, but why isn't there a "Play All" option? (I did like the part where he compares Avatar to Ferngully.) In "Bringing Harold and Kumar ClaymationÒ To Life" (4 minutes) we get comments from the director and the writers and we see storyboards for the entire Claymation sequence, but we never meet the animators or see how the process was done. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 4 minutes. This includes an alternate version of Harold and Kumar running into two old friends and another appearance by Santa.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long