Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson

Cast: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Danneel Harris, Paula Garcés

Running Time: 90 mins

Certificate: 18

Synopsis: It’s been six years since the stoner pair’s last outing, and things have changed quite a bit. But it wouldn’t be a HAROLD & KUMAR movie without a bit of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, as the duo cause a Christmas panic when they burn down Harold’s father-in-law’s prized tree on Xmas Eve…

It’s a depressing world we live in. The economy’s doomed, employment opportunities are a thing of the past and war is being waged all around us. So it’s not easy to get into the Christmas spirit. But of all the things to finally trigger the Xmas mood, I never expected it to be HAROLD & KUMAR.

The boys are back in town for their third outing, which sees them grow up, settle down and start a family. Not together though. That’s probably an important point to mention. And strictly speaking it’s only the Harold ‘Harry’ Lee half (played once again by an extremely capable John Cho, also of STAR TREK fame) that manages this. But AVH&K3DC – let’s just call it HAROLD & KUMAR’S CHRISTMAS – definitely has its fair share of surprisingly mature moments.

That’s not to say the spirit of previous outings HAROLD & KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE and HAROLD & KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY is lost. Kumar, played once more by returning lead Kal Penn, is pretty much in the same place he was six years ago (despite GUANTANAMO BAY being released three years ago… yeah, I don’t get it either), smoking himself into infertility and an early grave. Or so it would seem. Kumar’s personal dilemma for this film revolves around his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa, who he’s managed to impregnate.

On the other hand we have Harold, who’s off the drugs, and has settled down with a wife and is trying for children. Only his father-in-law can’t stand the sight of him. That father-in-law is Danny Trejo, who excels as he does in most all his roles. Thus Harold has to win his respect… so it doesn’t help when Kumar inadvertently burns down the aggrieved father-in-law’s homegrown Christmas tree. Havoc ensues as the pair attempt to track down another tree, and it’s in the typical brazen fashion we’ve come to expect from the franchise.

Of course, the measure of enjoyment that you take from HAROLD & KUMAR’S CHRISTMAS will depend entirely on your level for appreciating, well, the lowest level of humour. Think accidentally blowing out Santa’s brains with a stray shotgun blast, penis-frozen-to-lamppost gags and an infant on drugs. Actually, that last one was a bit too far even for me. Thomas Lennon plays the baby’s father, Todd, and he’s suitably hysterical, if a tad grating, when his child winds up dancing on the ceiling from a mixture of cocaine and weed.

The film’s plotline is nothing to complain about; sure, it’s slightly contrived and a bit thin on the ground, but for a comedy film – especially one of this calibre – it doesn’t need to be anything more than that. And because of this, HAROLD & KUMAR’S CHRISTMAS doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard; it doesn’t take itself seriously at all, as well it shouldn’t – and it is here that it finds its success.

There’s Soviet mafia bosses, there’s naked ladies, there’s Neil Patrick Harris attempting to rape someone… yeah, that last one was definitely too far, and didn’t fit the tone of the film at all. But mostly it’s standard Harold and Kumar hijinks. Where things get interesting is during a scene somewhere around the three-quarter mark, whereupon Harold and Kumar, about to die at the hand of hired goons, launch into an emotional speech that allows for surprising maturity and development of the characters. It’s unexpected but a welcome change of pace and really helps to grind the film into reality.

It’s worth noting the 3D elements; heck, it’s in the title. And just like in the title, the 3D here is very much not simply tacked on the end. The less-than-subtle jabs at the format voice what we’ve all been thinking the past couple of years, but HAROLD & KUMAR’S CHRISTMAS takes full advantage of the technology to properly propel all manner of objects at us. It’s extremely effective, and the only logical or otherwise beneficial use of 3D I’ve seen since AVATAR.

Take this film at face value, for what it is, and you might be pleasantly surprised. I know I was. HAROLD & KUMAR’S CHRISTMAS is essentially one big slap in the face of anyone who’s ever worn a suit to work, but it still carries a few [emotionally] mature themes that ground the story and give plenty of character development. Best Christmas film of 2011? Well, I can’t pretend to have seen ARTHUR CHRISTMAS yet, but I’m willing to hedge my bets that it won’t top this for sheer enjoyment.

 A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS is released in UK cinemas on Friday December 9th 2011.