Is it possible for a conservative to review A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas fairly? Conventional wisdom says that such a task is something our liberal and libertarian friends could handle, but not so much the nerdy guy who has Reagan posters in his room al la Alex P. Keaton. Not only do I have those Ronald Reagan posters, here now is a fair-minded review of the newest Harold and Kumar flick.
First off, I’m not going to spend any time on how much of a hypocrite Kal Penn is. I’ve already done that. Instead of concentrating on Kal’s thin skin when it comes to his religion and his culture, I’d rather focus on Harold & Kumar’s biggest problem—there aren’t any sacred cows left to slaughter. Well, there is…but most writers and directors would rather not go there (I’m looking at you Kevin Smith).
When the first Harold and Kumar came out it tackled racial issues in ways that hadn’t really been done before. It had two cool minorities (politics aside) in the lead. It went places where other comedies feared to tread, and along the way it made Neil Patrick Harris cool again. It was certainly “fresh”, as its Rotten Tomatoes score reflected.
Then, with its second act it went South (literally and figuratively). While the writers thought it may have been “speaking truth to power” to go after red necks and George Bush, it wasn’t. It was just somewhat lame.
Now, with A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, the duo are back, but without a real sense of purpose. It takes a magical joint to bring them together for another adventure. John Cho’s well-to-do “Harold” must get a replacement Christmas tree for the one Kumar burns down, before his in-laws get back from midnight mass. If he fails, his Mexican father-in-law (spectacularly cast by Danny Trejo) might never warm up to him.
While this third installment rightly plays up the importance of friendship, the “offensive” jokes fall flatter than they did in 2004 because a.) we’re more jaded than ever and b.) the social commentary is tired and stale. Where have I seen a pedophile priest joke before? Oh yeah—everywhere. Why did it seem familiar when they made that joke about all Asians looking alike? Oh yeah—because I heard it about twenty years ago.
A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas includes a toddler that gets high, brushes her teeth with cocaine, and eats ecstasy. She “gets the munchies” and “tweaks out” on cocaine, but apparently even Kal Penn drew the line at child pornography (he might want to work for the Obama administration if a second term materializes like the 3D smoke in the film).
While it’s good to see Harold and Kumar together again, there’s a hint of sadness to it, as even the actors seem to realize the franchise has run its course. Sure, there’s talk of an animated series…but doesn’t that just prove my point? (Again, something to ask Kevin Smith about.)
Personally, I knew it was over for the franchise when I found myself looking more forward to the Neil Patrick Harris cameo than the actual movie. NPH doesn’t disappoint (does he ever?), and at this rate it’s conceivable that he’ll one day have his own vehicle with which to resuscitate Kal Penn’s sagging career.