Blu-ray: A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas

   Lifelong pals Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) have gone to White Castle, Guantanamo Bay, Texas and Amsterdam, but in A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, the latest offering in the seminal stoner series, the pair go where no pot-com buddies have ever gone before…three dimensions.

Originally released in 3D, the new format opened whole new ways to take a joke, shake it up and spray viewers with the aftermath. The film
’s recent release on DVD and Blu-ray, therefore, might seem like it would be disappointing by comparison, but, believe it or not, the movie stands up fine on its own, offering more laughs, groans and just-plain-wrong moments than the previous two films.

The story begins when, after a two-year break in their friendship—during which Harold gets married to dream-girl Maria (Paula Garcés) and Kumar is dumped by his true love Vanessa (Danneel Harris)—a package addressed to Harold mysteriously shows up outside Kumar’s door. He decides to deliver it to his former BFF at his home in the ‘burbs as he makes his way into Manhattan for a Christmas Eve party.

At first happy to see each other, the tentative reunion is upset when the package turns out to be a gigantic joint. One thing leads to another, and before you can say “munchies” Maria’s father’s prized Christmas tree has gone up in smoke.

The next several hours are spent searching for a replacement, with the predictable hijinks. Along for the ride this time around are Harold and Kumar’s new best buddies, Todd (Tom Lennon) and Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld), as well as Todd’s precocious daughter, Ava (Ashley and Chloe Cross).

The specifics of their adventures aren’t super-important (the bullet points are: car wreck, Russian mob, claymation sequence, a baby ingesting multiple drugs, naked nuns in the shower, obligatory Neil Patrick Harris cameo and shooting Santa), as they involve most of the same jokes and punch lines of the other two films, but, let’s face it…this movie isn’t trying to win awards for breaking new ground. It is what it is, unapologetically, and as such succeeds in being a new classic in the genre.

Okay, the NPH cameo does warrant a few sentences. Has any other actor become so beloved for playing such a reprehensible, sociopathic version of themselves? Harris is so deliciously deviant, so brilliantly bad, so not Doogie Howser, that, despite knowing his character belongs in jail (at best) or in a psych ward, viewers, like Kumar, really want to see what happens next.

Unless experienced on a 3D television hooked up to a 3D Blu-ray player playing the 3D Blu-ray version of the movie (Warner Home Video, MSRP: $44.95), home viewers aren’t likely to feel the full power of smoke rings blown by Kumar and Patton Oswalt or the giant doobie flying at the screen, but the 3D effects weren’t the only dimensional aspects of this movie. Surprisingly, there has also been an attempt to make the main characters more than a couple of stereotypes. Harold’s attempts at starting a family, as well as Kumar’s realization that it’s time to grow up, may set the stage for new growth in future films…or may simply be a device setting up a sequel featuring their kids.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack with DVD and UltraViolet digital copy (MSRP: $35.99) comes with a single, double-sided disc. The DVD side has only the theatrical release and a language option, plus the UltraViolet digital copy information (accessible via computer). The Blu-ray side offers both the film shown in theaters and an extended “Extra Dope Edition,” plus a few special features, though they’re as scanty as the female leads’ wardrobes.

Though extended editions are usually bloated and slower paced, the extra six minutes added to this film actually seem to enhance the story and give more depth to the characters (inasmuch as that’s possible in this type of genre movie).

The longest feature, “Through the Haze with Tom Lennon,” is actually a series of vignettes and comedic observations the actor makes about the film, the production and Harris. They’re mostly funny (Lennon is much more interesting here than in the film itself), but each of the six shorts must be selected individually; it seems as though a ‘Play All’ button was an obvious miss (especially if the target audience is more likely than not to be, er, not low).

The winner for most interesting feature is the behind-the-scenes look at creating the animated portion of the movie, “Bringing Harold & Kumar Claymation to Life,” with director Todd Strauss-Schulson. Though it seems like it was meant to be part of a much more extensive extras feature, it holds up by itself. The storyboard art, mixed with picture-in-picture clips of the finished scene, make for interesting viewing.

Finally, both the Blu-ray and single-disc DVD release (MSRP: $28.98) include some deleted scenes—actually, they’re more accurately called alternate scenes. Jews eating Chinese food, Santa versus the mob and attack of the coked-out baby all offer viewers a sort of alternate-reality version of events as they appeared in the film. An UltraViolet digital copy of the movie is also included with the DVD.

Viewers shouldn’t let the fact that the holidays have passed be an excuse to put off enjoying A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas until late November. The holiday season functions merely as a new backdrop for the adventures of these two odd couple-esque friends. The real story, as ever, is how much can go wrong in the wake of toking up—and how funny it all is when it’s over.

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray.

Published on LifeInLA.com

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