Latest ‘Harold & Kumar’ combines crassness with holiday spirit

New Line Cinema/Courtesy

Featuring a plethora of in-your-face 3D effects as well as a fun-filled romp through Claymation, the newest “Harold & Kumar” movie would be a great one to watch high. With a mouthful of a title, “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” is also the third in a line of stoner comedies featuring the degenerate duo played by John Cho and Kal Penn.

Adding 3D to the package has become an industry standard for successful franchises, and “Harold & Kumar” does not disappoint. Picture smoke rings that blow towards your face and one classy slow-motion scene involving exploding bags of cocaine drifting out of the screen (set, of course, to the tune of “White Christmas”).

These are the types of 3D effects, however, that are so obvious that I’d imagine one would see them coming even in 2D. With eggs hurled into your face and glass breaking outwards, the joke, it seems, is not on us, but on the whole 3D-as-a-commercial-gimmick phenomenon. That comedic self-awareness extends beyond just the visual effects, and into the jokes as well. At one point, someone says to Kumar, “I told her you work for the White House,” a sly nod to Penn’s real-life stint working for the Obama administration.

Like all stoner comedies, this one has a pretty basic set-up, riddled with incredible coincidences and slap-your-forehead mix-ups. It is six years after Guantanamo Bay, and our heroes have since then parted ways. Kumar’s been kicked out of medical school, thanks to a failed drug test, and is still bumming around in his and Harold’s old apartment. Harold, on the other hand, is now a hot shot on Wall Street and living in the suburbs with his now-wife Maria. The estranged pair is launched into their ragtag romp across the city — complete with your requisite run-in with the ever-amusing Neil Patrick Harris — when Kumar lights a joint that blows up Harold’s 12-foot fir. Set on a simultaneous chase and flight, the former being the search for a lost Christmas tree and the latter, two Ukrainian mob bosses going for the kill (after an unfortunate misunderstanding), the antics our pair finds itself in are nothing if not predictable.

A lost Christmas tree, of course, is a big no-no for Harold’s father-in-law, played by the hilariously stoic Danny Trejo. He’s very big on the sanctity of Christmas and, in extension, Christmas trees, and he’s also the source of much of the racist humor in the film (To Harold: “You take the picture. You people are good at that.”) “Harold & Kumar,” it seems, exists in a post-racial world, where it’s weirdly okay to make these racially insensitive jokes because they’re so obviously racist.

This irreverent humor, however, is taken to an inappropriate extreme when it comes to the side plot involving a coked-up baby who is the butt of a variety of cringe-worthy jokes. On a similar note, this is not your typical family-friendly Christmas affair — the movie is filled with phalluses, even a ridiculous Claymated one.

Despite its tasteless humor, “Harold & Kumar” seems to be material tailor-made for a Christmas flick. It’s crass and sophomoric, yes, but it’s also fundamentally a story of two former best friends who’ve lost their way. This stoner comedy, ladies and gentlemen, is one with a heart, albeit one that should be close to death from all the drugs it’s been subject to.