Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas

The best thing about Harold and Kumar is that despite all the over-the-top chicanery, things were always grounded in reality by one simple fact – everyone knows a Korean dude that rolls with an Indian dude and that when those two get together, hilarity ensues.  Not only do I know this, but I lived it.  And because of that, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle has always held a special place in my DVD collection - all despite the fact that the closest I’ve ever been to a White Castle is the mediocre frozen sliders that can be found in your local Ralph’s. 

I have to admit that the second installment ALMOST tarnished my memory of the first with its misguided political undertones and excessive male nudity, and diminished chemistry between John Cho, Kal Penn, and Nei Patrick Harris.  Well, I can sadly report that said fete has finally been accomplished, because director Todd Strauss-Schulson's installment in the series has sufficiently put all that was good about the original movie far enough away in the rearview mirror.  The stink of A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas is indeed that pungent. 

The problem with this film is that not only is it horribly unentertaining, but also it is completely irrelevant.  It suffers from the same problem that Ocean’s 12 does in that the film tries to be overly clever with winks and nods to itself, the cast, and crew with pseudo insider jokes – such as such NPH’s sexual orientation, Kal Penn’s hiatus from acting to work at the White House, and the current 3D technology fad - that are neither clever nor funny.  These mechanisms buried in the subtext of a film can be subtle value-adds to humor, but when they are propped up as punch lines in a comedic script that suffers from a paucity of funny jokes, it just feels plane douchey. 

John Cho and Kal Penn sleepwalk throughout this film.  It feels like Cho is killing time waiting to start work on J.J. Abrams' next installment of Star Trek and Kal Penn spends most of his energy trying to come up with his next clever tweet.  I hesitate to say much more of their respective acting performances because there was very little acting that actually made it onto the screen.  As for the rest of the cast, no one else in the film does anything of merit.  Neil Patrick Harris’ act wears dangerously thin and a few other familiar faces appear for nostalgia’s sake as nostalgia is a great way to distract audiences from the actual quality of the film.

Under no circumstances, do I recommend this film unless you like waiting ninety minutes for nothing to happen.  I know there is great temptation to see it despite everything written here that screams to the contrary.  Closure is a powerful lure since this will no doubt be the last film in the series ($35M gross).  So if possible, resist the temptation.  There are plenty other bad comedies out there that you can waste your time on that won’t ruin a near classic.  Watch something else, anything else, and preserve the memory of two guys and their epic journey for really bad sliders.

Standout Performance: WaffleBot.  I kind of want one.


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