It’s been a funny old year for 3-D. The surcharge, dull images, lazy post-conversion and that lingering sense of paying extra for an inferior product all contribute to the sense that maybe this isn’t the future of cinema after all. Maybe it’s just a final dying breath from a studio system that has been trying to cope with dwindling audience numbers for years. Box office receipts appear steady but, India aside, the actual number of bums around the world is falling.Despite all this, Hollywood is still doing their damnedest to get people in the door carrying those pesky black glasses. The latest film to hop on the 3-D train to nowhere is the third installment in Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg’s Harold and Kumar stoner comedy series. The latest film arrives three years after Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, and sees our heroes Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn – not his real name y’know) now living separate lives trying to find their way in the world.
Harold is a successful Wall Street banker trying to start a family with his wife Maria (Paula Garcés), while seeking the approval of her father, played by token angry Mexican Danny Trejo. Kumar still lives in their old shared apartment in a state of squalor having abandoned his career in medicine after a rough break-up with Vanessa (Danneel Ackles). It’s Christmas eve and a mystery package for Harold arrives at the door of this old apartment. Despite having not spoken in years, it being the festive season Kumar figures he should drop it off to his old friend. The fuse for the raucous stoner adventure has been lit.
Whatever your feelings on the gimmick, having smoke rings blown at your face, seeing a baby evading Ukrainian gangsters while on cocaine and watching a penis stuck to a pole IN THREE DEE is going to get some laughs. It’s a very knowing use of the technology (did anyone see where that fourth wall went?) and they’re undoubtedly treating it all as a gimmick, but it works. Sample quote – “This is going to make Avatar look Avatarded!”. We’re also treated to a hilarious Neil Patrick Harris dance number and extended cameo. Series regular NPH is back but now playing himself as the straight man faking life as gay man to get more women. Oh yes.
But all this razzmatazz would mean squat if the story isn’t up to scratch. I make no denial that I love these guys but with Penn and Cho having gone on to greater things, I doubt I was the only one worried that this would just be a tired old sequel cashing in on brand and name recognition for one last box office pay-day. But amidst the madness there is real heart here. Seeing our old friends torn apart and *SERIOUSLY MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT* reuniting is all quite moving.
The laughs were never going to be in question but, whisper it, this may actually turn out to be one of the most touching grown-up Christmas movies since Bad Santa.
Todd Strauss-Schulson / Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg / Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Danneel Harris, Paula Garcés & Danny Trejo / 89 min / Comedy, Christmas / Release: 4 November 2011 (US/Canada), 9 December 2011 (Irl/UK)