A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas: A Conservative Review

John Cho and Kal Penn grew up, and it shows in the newest Harold and Kumar adventure; they no longer look comfortable in the roles. It's also hard to slaughter sacred cows when most of them have already been killed.

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.

How on earth did the newest Harold and Kumar get better reviews than the original? Probably because Kal Penn worked for the Obama administration and has a lot of good-will reviews stored up.

Kal Penn: Hypocrisy of Kumar Makes NPH and Joel Stein Cry.

A microcosm of what political correctness breeds can be found in the Kal Penn vs. Joel Stein “My Own Private India” spat. There’s nothing more entertaining than watching moral pedestal clowns cannibalize each other. When talking heads who think they’re cool because everything they say is drenched in VH1 Best Week Ever sarcasm start going at it, just sit back and enjoy.

What was it, exactly, that irked Kumar (and one-time Obama staffer)? Behold:

My town is totally unfamiliar to me. The Pizza Hut where my busboy friends stole pies for our drunken parties is now an Indian sweets shop with a completely inappropriate roof. The A&P I shoplifted from is now an Indian grocery…

Eventually, there were enough Indians in Edison to change the culture. At which point my townsfolk started calling the new Edisonians “dot heads.” One kid I knew in high school drove down an Indian-dense street yelling for its residents to “go home to India.” In retrospect, I question just how good our schools were if “dot heads” was the best racist insult we could come up with for a group of people whose gods have multiple arms and an elephant nose.

The reason why this article is so great is because it completely demolishes Kal Penn’s creative template that the “Middle America” racist, homophobic, Bible thumping “freak shows” portrayed in his Harold and Kumar flicks are all conservatives. (Kevin Smith apparently hasn’t caught on yet).

It also shows what a hypocritical whiner Penn is:

Gags about impossibly spicy food? I’d never heard those before! Multiple Gods with multiple arms? Multiple laughs! Recounting racial slurs like “dot-head”? Oh, Mr. Stein, is too good! I don’t know how he comes up with such unique bits.

I get it, Kal Penn: It’s okay for you to roll out every tired Christian, redneck, conservative joke that self-righteous Hollywood actors have been using as a crutch for decades, but someone makes the same stale jokes about your culture and Hinduism and suddenly you’re up in arms. How many millions did the “Freakshow” scene (i.e., the character you used as a vehicle to mock Christians) in Harold and Kumar net you? When you break it down, dumb joke by dumb joke at the expense of Middle America, how much did your own myopic writing fatten your wallet?

Immigration is a complex issue, and moral relativists and multi-culturalists who demonize anyone who disagrees with them only set the stage for these sorts of scenarios to happen. Joel Stein wrote a pretty sad article for Time magazine, but it’s understandable for someone to have mixed feelings about his hometown getting a cultural makeover over such a relatively short period of time.

Multi-culturalism can very well lead to large swathes of the United States being Balkanized. It means nothing if immigrants dress like Americans and listen to American music if they don’t believe in the founding principles enshrined in the Constitution. Joel Stein might think the Statue of Liberty would shed a tear “because of the amount of cologne [Indian immigrants] wear,” but I think a better litmus test would be their knowledge and appreciation of our nation’s founding.

Regardless, back to the point: Kal Penn can dish it out, but he can’t take it. Apparently, the Political Correctness Police are only allowed to act when it offends Kumar. And that makes Neil Patrick Harris cry.

NPH and a few angels are crying because Kal Penn has to run to Mommy Huffington Post when the cultural jokes are shot in his direction.