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A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas(2011)
Six years have elapsed since Guantanemo Bay, leaving Harold and Kumar estranged from one another with very different families, friends and lives. But when Kumar arrives on Harold's doorstep during the holiday season with a mysterious package in hand, he inadvertently burns down Harold's father-in-law's beloved Christmas tree. To fix the problem, Harold and Kumar embark on a mission through New York City to find the perfect Christmas tree, once again stumbling into trouble at every single turn.
For more about A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas and the A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas Blu-ray release, see A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 27, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Writers: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Starring: Kal Penn, John Cho, Patton Oswalt, Thomas Lennon, Neil Patrick Harris, Danny Trejo
» See full cast & crew
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas Blu-ray Review
"I don't know. Hasn't the whole 3D thing jumped the shark by now?"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 27, 2012
"No, no, no, Mr. Lee. You don't understand. This is the best 3D you've ever seen. It's gonna be amazing!" A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas is one of the very few films that really have fun with 3D; both with it and at its expense. The boys' 3D debut is a fittingly festive blast of Christmas cheer and side-splitting satire, full of hilarious in-your-face sight gags, playful jabs at 3D and the industry's infatuation with it, and the sharp stoner humor that made Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle the unexpected cult comedy hit of 2004. Harold and Kumar's third big screen outing is also one of the few films that are far more fun to watch in 3D. In 2D, a slew of jokes and visual hijinks are all but neutered, making it that rare flick that you absolutely must watch in 3D, even if you have to trek to a friend's house to do so. (Note the difference between my movie scores for the two versions. Yep, it's that much better in 3D.) Does that mean you should avoid Harold and Kumar's Christmas carol if you don't have a 3D setup? Not at all. Fans of the series will no doubt love the 2D version for everything it is and more but, in two dimensions, the chronic duo's third misadventure doesn't stack up to the original. In 3D, though, Harold, Kumar and NPH take a surly swing at the film that started it all.
Penning a plot synopsis is my least favorite part of a review, so when someone hands me the perfect synopsis on a silver platter, I try to take advantage. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Thomas Lennon: "Certain times in the world, uh... subject matter has been waiting for the technology to catch up. And I think if we look at the films of a very good friend of mine named Jimmy Cameron... he made a little indie film, maybe you've heard of it, called Avatar... Jimmy was waiting for the technology to catch up with the story that needed to be told. In Harold & Kumar 3, this is a story that needed to be told. But the technology did not exist to tell it. So we are living at the greatest time imaginable, where a story about an idiotic Indian stoner (Kal Penn as Kumar) and his vaguely uptight Korean friend (John Cho as Harold) drive around in a car with the guy from Reno 911 (Lennon as Harold's toolbox tagalong, Todd), and that other kid whose name escapes me (Amir Blumenfeld as Kumar's obnoxious new bestie, Adrian), and look for a Christmas tree. Go back 100, 200 years. Charles Dickens would have loved to have written that story. If he had thought to make some 3D movies where we see some butt-naked nuns, homeboy would have been rizzich. There's a lot of great novelists who didn't think of that. Hemingway. Did you think of a 3D movie where nuns take a shower and make out? No, you didn't. I would argue Faulkner never thought of any of these things. Victor Hugo didn't think of this stuff. Well, there's one scene in Les Miserables where the nuns make out and take a shower. Oh my God, I'm so sorry. I guess there is. There's a whole scene in Les Mis. They cut it from the musical. So I guess Victor Hugo did do this already."
And that's A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas. Endless jokes, wry jabs and random asides built around a harmlessly flimsy plot: two former friends reunite to track down the last flawless fir in New York to replace a treasured Christmas tree they accidentally incinerate after tossing a lit joint out the window; a tree that was groomed to perfection over eight long years by Harold's intimidating father in law, Mr. Perez (Danny Trejo in a fantastically cheesy Christmas sweater). With Adrian, Todd and Todd's toddler in tow, Harold and Kumar have to save Christmas, contend with vindictive Ukrainian gangster Sergei Katsov (Elias Koteas), win Mr. Perez's respect, patch up Kumar's relationship with his pregnant ex (Danneel Harris), and elicit help from their old pal Neil Patrick Harris (resurrected from the dead after being shot in Escape from Guantanamo Bay). In between all that, Todd's daughter slides down a slippery slope into the world of drug abuse (oh, how hard you'll laugh), Todd and Adrian get trapped in Sergei's closet, and Harold and Kumar have to escape Sergei's henchmen, survive a Claymation hallucination, take on a cocky teen in an epic game of beer pong, get drugged, dodge bullets, perform on Broadway with NPH, nearly kill St. Nick, try to unstick Harold's... ahem, from a frozen pole (picture a very R-rated Christmas Story), and befriend a lonely but ever-so-loyal WaffleBot. (If you don't walk away wanting your own WaffleBot, there's a lump of coal where your heart should be.) And it all draws to a suitably happy holiday close, even if it isn't as much of a roll-on-the-floor ending as it could have been. Everything comes together for dear Harold and Kumar... sorry, spoiler alert: everything comes together for dear Harold and Kumar. But where's the seemingly inevitable shootout between Sergei and Mr. Perez? The payoff to Harold and Kumar's Broadway performance? The return of Harold's assistant, Kenneth (Bobby Lee) or Kumar's drug-dealing mall Santa (Patton Oswalt)? Wandering in circles on the Island of Missed Opportunities, that's where.
Penn and Cho are as lovable as ever, and even get a chance to show off a softer side to Harold and Kumar when they ditch Todd and Adrian, shelve the ceaseless bickering, and reevaluate their priorities. You know, the essentials of life: friendship, love, commitment, family, kids... massive, mysterious, magical joints that arrive with no return address. The usual. Penn, fresh off his stint at the White House, is the overgrown, weed-addled manchild of the pair, while Cho, fresh off his stint aboard the Starship Enterprise, is a wealthy Wall Street suit working hard to forget where he came from. Kumar has to grow up a little, Harold has to learn to live a little. It would be heartwarming if it weren't so raunchy and irreverent. But, with director Todd Strauss-Schulson at the wheel and writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg cackling in the back seat, it's smart raunch and clever irreverence. It not only brings the series forward (and upward), it toys with Christmas convention and delivers gut-busting surprise after gut-busting surprise. The story of NPH's return to the land of the living is just one of many perverse twists and turns that await, and I hesitate to rattle off any more for fear of giving away too much. And the 3D gags are even funnier. (You'll never see more convincing 3D smoke than you will here.) Christmas doesn't always hit its target (a handful of gags fall flat, still others aren't nearly as funny the second time around), or even stay on target half the time (the story serves the humor, the humor rarely serves the story). So no, it isn't the be-all, end-all of the H&K series, and it sometimes feels more like an R-rated television special than a crude Christmas-Classic feature film. Be that as it may, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas -- especially the 3D version -- has earned a coveted place among the Christmas movies I make sure to watch every December.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas Blu-ray, Video Quality
If the weather outside strikes you as delightful, just wait until you get a load of Harold & Kumar's 1080p/MVC-encoded 3D presentation. Backed by the same high quality transfer as the 2D version and armed with the extra impact of the film's reach-out-and-slap-someone 3D experience, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas is the 3D release to beat this year. And I don't say that lightly. You won't find more convincing 3D smoke than you will here (prepare to fight the primal urge to wave it out of your face), you won't see a 3D egg splatter across someone's face this brilliantly, you won't recoil from a giant 3D Claymation schlong anywhere else, you won't marvel at the floating embers of a 3D joint like you will here, you won't get this close to Neil Patrick Harris (ever), and you certainly won't laugh at any 3D sight gags as much as you will with those that grace this stoner stunner. Depth is extraordinary and dimensionality is exceptional, no doubt the product of shooting the film in native 3D, and the 3D CG elements that are employed look great. You can spot the tell-tale signs of a CG effect, sure, but that doesn't make any of it less effective. But before this review descends into the bowels of hyperbole any further, it should also be noted that the image isn't prone to crosstalk (for those of you whose 3D displays or glasses produce ghosting), aliasing doesn't creep into the experience, and the film's grain field doesn't distract, minus a few negligible and inherent shots in which grain and noise get a bit unwieldy. Can I re-engage the hyperbole drive now? A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas will grab you by the throat, throttle you till you concede, and leave you begging for more. The 3D presentation is just that much fun.
But that's not all. Colors are bright, festive and oh-so-delightful, with sizzling St. Nick reds, warm hearthside skintones, and deep, satisfying black levels. The image has a blue tint at times (when the duo venture out into the snowy morn) and an earthy green hue at others (when the two squint through a weed-induced haze), but every instance is intentional, as is almost any other strike you could levy against the presentation. The film's fine veneer of grain has been preserved, textures and closeups are refined, and edge definition is ice-skate sharp on the whole (without any glaring ringing to worry over). Note the tangled hair in Kumar's unkempt beard, the needles of Mr. Perez's beloved tree (not to mention Trejo's general grisliness), the glowing embers flaking off a giant joint spinning in slow motion, the nicks and scars on the Ukrainian gangsters' faces, and really everything else that tokes up on screen. There is some softness, but only of the filmic variety; you won't find any unsightly smearing or any hint of noise reduction. Nor will you find any significant artifacting, banding or other anomalies, even though, again, grain and noise spike somewhat erratically on occasion. Nope, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas looks great. It hits hard in 3D (not that the 2D version slacks off) and fans will be ecstatic... or pleased yet insatiably hungry, if their mid-movie snack is of the rolled, homegrown variety.
Note: the theatrical version of the film is presented in 2D and 3D. The 96-minute extended cut is presented in 2D.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas Blu-ray, Audio Quality
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas sounds even better... so long as you're watching the theatrical version of the film. Unfortunately, the 96-minute extended cut doesn't offer a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track like its 90-minute theatrical counterpart; just a decent 448kbps Dolby Digital mix. It's a bit disappointing, naturally, and audiophiles will most likely write off the extended cut as a special feature. Still, the theatrical track is toting a stuffed bag of sonic goodies that should inspire plenty of excitement come Christmas morn. (Or a frosty February morn, as it were. Harold and Kumar slept through the holidays.) Comedies are often flat, chatty, front-heavy affairs, but not A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas. Chaotic shootouts, metal-rending car crashes, citywide destruction by way of a giant Claymation snow-demon, a stirring Broadway show, the eruption of a trumpet-blaring Christmas carol; the sound design is a blast, and just as immersive at the film's 3D experience. LFE output is hearty and discerning, rear speaker activity is aggressive and enveloping, directionality is precise and involving, and dynamics roar through the skies and tip toe down the chimney. Dialogue is crisp, clear and intelligible as well, without any muffled voices or wayward lines to note. Prioritization is excellent too, and every sound effect, great and small, earns its place in the soundstage. In the end, the theatrical cut's lossless track earns a 4.5 from me, while the extended cut's Dolby mix nabs a 3.5. Average? 4.0, although it could have been much higher had both versions of the film delivered the lossless goods.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It may not be Christmas (yet), but don't wait until next December to spend some time with A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas. It's as hit-or-miss as every other Harold & Kumar movie, and the 2D version isn't nearly as funny as its 3D partner in crime, but with the 3D edition in your hands, there's no need to settle. You'll crack up, you'll tear up, you'll reach out and try to touch the holiday treats floating off the screen... you'll call it the best stoner comedy of the year, if not one of the best 3D releases of the year. (Too early to start awarding Best of 2012 awards? Nah, it's never too early.) Warner's 3D Blu-ray release is no slouch either, arriving with a bountiful video transfer, a dazzling 3D presentation of the film's theatrical cut, a thrilling DTS-HD Master Audio track (again, for the theatrical cut only), and a handful of hilarious extras. More special features would have certainly helped (it's bare under the Harold & Kumar tree), as would have 3D and lossless audio presentations of the film's extended cut, but fans won't object. Too much. If you have a 3D setup, be sure to go with the 3D edition. If not, ask Santa for a 3D setup, if only so you can watch A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas the way God intended it to be seen. It may be a bit too early in the year to dole out such high praise, but I'm going to say it anyway: this is and will remain one of the best 3D releases of 2012.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas: Other Editions
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A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas Blu-ray, News and Updates
• A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas Blu-ray (Updated) - December 22, 2011
New Line and Warner Home Entertainment will bring A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas to Blu-ray next year. The third installment in the raunchy Harold and Kumar series follows the two leads (John Cho, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, and Kal Penn, Harold & Kumar ...
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