Title: A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas

Format: Extra Dope Edition Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy

MPAA Rating: R (Theatrical), Unrated (Extended)

Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson

Written by: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg

Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris

Studio: Warner Bros.

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

Blu-ray Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Review by: Bill Jones

The Film

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle may have been one of the best surprise standout comedies when it was released in 2004 (not to mention one of the best product tie-ins around), but the series took a sharp dive with the 2008 sequel Harold & Kumar Escape Guantanamo Bay, which was nothing short of torture in its own right.

But maybe, just maybe, it was worth enduring to get to 2011’s unexpected sequel, A Very Harold & Kumar (3D) Christmas. While the duo’s Christmas special doesn’t quite find the former glory of the original, it is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor and in theaters it opted to embrace 3D technology fully, finding many of its laughs in jump-out-of-the-screen gags.

The Christmas special takes place six years after the last film, with the duo at odds. Harold (John Cho) is happily married but struggling around the holidays with his intimidating father-in-law (Danny Trejo). Things go from bad to worse when Kumar inadvertently burns down his prized Christmas tree. In his quest to make things right, he cross paths once again with Kumar (Kal Penn), who is still very much a stoner struggling to find some level of maturity in his life. As the two try to make things right, they also work to rekindle their friendship.

The film also has a number of fun secondary parts, including the imminent return of Neil Patrick Harris as himself, as he puts on a stellar Christmas stage spectacular and messes with the heads of fans with some inside gay jokes. We also see Patton Oswalt as a mall Santa and Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!) as a friend of Harold. The cast helps make the film enjoyable throughout with some silly new gags, but the laughs that are created by its embracing of technology are also the ones that harm it.

In addition to a rather pointless Claymation sequence, the film again relies heavily on its 3D sight gags. Therefore, watching the 2D version of the Blu-ray [Editor’s Note: A 3D version of the Blu-ray exists, but Warner Bros. sent 2D for review, which is likely the viewing experience for most.] can leave the gags looking a bit ridiculous. That may be funnier on the first viewing, but when the film even includes wink-and-nod-to-the-camera 3D gags, it’s clear that something is being missed with a 2D viewing, which is ultimately the downside of embracing the technology for something more than depth. And ultimately, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, despite being a step in the right direction for the franchise, suffers because of it.

The Blu-ray

The Blu-ray offers and extended cut of the film, a “Through the Haze with Tom Lennon” featurette, a “Bringing Harold & Kumar Claymation to Life” featurette and deleted scenes. The Tom Lennon feature is the funniest of the bunch, but ultimately the Blu-ray is a bit light on content. Again viewers are stuck with the unfriendly Ultraviolet Digital Copy, and ultimately, they will still have to face the fact with this edition that A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas wasn’t really made for 2D viewing.

For more info, http://haroldandkumar.warnerbros.com

Pads & Panels received a copy of the movie’s combo pack courtesy of the studio for review purposes.