They went to White Castle and rebooted Doogie Howser's film and television career. They escaped Guantanamo Bay and smoked pot with President George W. Bush. And now Harold & Kumar are back in an all new Christmas adventure. The plot almost doesn't matter for these movies, because it's all just an excuse to spew profanity, make drug references, and throw in as much nudity as possible.
We pick up a few years after the last film; Harold and Kumar are no longer best friends. Harold and Maria are married and Harold has a successful Wall Street career. He's grown up, and even has a new adult friend in the form of his whipped neighbor, Todd (Tom Lennon of 'Reno 911'). But Harold is nervous about Maria's father, Mr. Perez (the ever badass, Danny Trejo) coming to visit for the Christmas holiday. It seems Mr. Perez loves Christmas, and specifically Christmas Trees, because his immigrant mother was brutally murdered (by Korean thugs!) before she could buy them their first American Christmas Tree.
Kumar, meanwhile, hasn't changed at all. Smoking pot has consumed his life to the point where he lost his girlfriend, Vanessa (Danneel Ackles) and his medical license, and his only friend is the annoying guy from across the hall, Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld of College Humor).
When a mysterious package for Harold arrives on Kumar's doorstep, the two friends are thrown back together. Shortly thereafter, Kumar accidentally burns down Mr. Perez's rare Christmas Tree with a magical joint. After a car accident destroys the replacement tree, Harold, Kumar, Adrian, Todd, and Todd's baby daughter, travel into New York City on an adventure that includes beer pong, a baby on drugs, a murderous Ukrainian gangster and his wannabe-slut daughter, a Claymation hallucination, and visits from previous cast members, including a hilarious Neil Patrick Harris musical number. It sounds bizarre, but the simple plot allows the filmmakers and cast to build a number of really funny set pieces.
If you loved the first two movies, or love smartly timed, but crude and sometimes blasphemous humor, then you'll love 'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas'. My wife and I love "stupid humor" and Christmas, so this is a home run for our tastes. We saw the film theatrically, in 3D, and laughed our asses off, and seeing the film again it's just as funny as the first time. At least for us. If cussing and the notion of a fictional baby on drugs doesn't make you at least crack smile, this one might not be for you.
For my two pennies, the 'Harold & Kumar' franchise succeeds because they manage to build their heightened, implausible stories around real friendship dynamics. Not only are the film's well written (the actual screenplays are LOL-funny, which is rare), Harold and Kumar are unlikely Hollywood heroes, which makes the experience feel fresh. They're also damn likeable and, in a way, relatable. Their journeys are always nonsensical rides, but that's what makes them so much fun. How silly and shocking will they get this time? There's also some biting satire snuck in for good measure, though that's not really the film's main focus.
In terms of the 3D vs. 2D and Extended Cut vs. Theatrical Cut, this film was shot with the intention of being seen in 3D. Just about every scene features an in-your-face-look-we're-doing-3D gag, which worked wonderfully in the cinema. It's still funny here if you know what they were going for, but I doubt it will work as well for those watching it in 2D for the first time. Also, I would say the Extended Cut is pretty much the same movie as the Theatrical Version. Some movies actually get funnier, like 'Step Brothers', but most of the extra material here is in the setup with a few payoffs or slightly elongated moments later. The new scenes were fine but, for me, there isn't enough awesome new material to warrant watching the film without its lossless, high definition surround soundtrack.
Wait, no HD surround sound track on the Extended Cut?
Yes, find out more below:
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Entertainment's 2D release of 'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas' includes a single Blu-ray/DVD (59GB) flipper housed in a standard blue eco-case along with instructions to claim your Digital Copy via UltraViolet (redemption deadline: February 7, 2014). The Blu-ray side of the disc houses two separate cuts of the film -- Theatrical and Extended Cut -- and begins with one trailer for Blu-ray 3D and another for 'Project X'. There are no markings on the packaging regarding Region Coding. The Theatrical Cut of the movie runs a tight 90 minutes, and includes a 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround sound track. The unrated Extended Cut runs for 96 minutes, but only includes a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital track. There is also a separate 3D release of the film, which includes everything on this release.
Shot digitally for its theatrical 3D presentation, 'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas' sparkles on Blu-ray with an generally strong AVC MPEG4 encode (aspect ratio 2.40:1) feature bold colors and detailed resolution common with high definition source material, but suffers from a few compression flaws. Perhaps this is because there are two separate versions of the film on one disc. Aliasing rears its head a few times. And sometimes when the actors are standing in front of a green screen background, they appear flat. Black levels also suffer, with some crush and some moments where they aren't as dark as they could be. Lastly, there's a bit of digital noise now and again, but that may just be a lighting/source material flaw; if you don't light HD enough, it gets noisy.
Despite a few flaws, this Blu-ray looks pretty great, sometimes appearing filmic, while sometimes it's more akin to the better quality parts of 'Jackass 3' (a good thing). Resolution is abundant and the colors are fantastic. Detail and texture are everywhere, given many of the shots a deep, three dimensional feel to them. Contrast is also quite good; there are no signs of banding or edge enhancement or any noise reduction.
While the Extended Cut's 5.1 Dolby Digital track would have been well regarded in the DVD universe, it can't compete with the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track on the Theatrical Version. There's much more depth and clarity and dynamic range, and the dialog seems clearer and more evenly mixed. 'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas' starts off as one would expect from a studio comedy. It's a front heavy mix with some music tossed in for good measure, but as soon as Mr. Perez tell the story of his first Christmas tree, you get a hint of how fun and aggressive this track is going to be. There are car crashes and slow motion ping pong balls and even a John Woo style shootout that all engage the surround channels. LFE is strong throughout, but absolutely roars during the Claymation sequence and Neil Patrick Harris' story about the time he met Jesus in Heaven. Call this track a sleeper: you don't know how awesome it is until it's kicking your butt. Definitely fun stuff.
Unfortunately, 'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas' doesn't come with a lot of special features, but the Tom Lennon feature is hilarious and worth a watch.
'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas' is a hilarious film that crudely and lovingly takes its place in the Christmas film genre. It's up to you as to whether or not you think it'll ever be a Classic, but for my money, it's pretty close. I laughed for 90 minutes in the cinema, and enjoyed it equally on the repeat viewing. The only thing that's potentially weird about watching the 2D version of the film is the sheer number of 3D gags. As a Blu-ray, the video presentation is above average, though not perfect, and the Theatrical Version of the film features a robust, aggressive DTS-HD MA surround sound track (sadly, the Extended Cut's only audio option is lossy). Special Features fans will be disappointed, but what little is here is quite funny. Generally speaking, if you're a fan of the film but don't care for 3D, this is the edition for you. If you like or even tolerate 3D, then this shot-in-3D movie should probably be seen on the Blu-ray 3D.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.