While this politically incorrect humor is not without a certain self-awareness, it’s disappointingly tame, overly broad stuff, missing the larger, funnier joke — the xenophobia Harold and Kumar repeatedly encounter despite their thoroughgoing Americanness — that has distinguished the franchise from its lowbrow brethren until now.
Elsewhere, the slapdash comedy veers into sheer unpleasantness, especially a toking-toddler running gag that soon winds up in “Baby Geniuses” territory.
By now, Cho and Penn have got their Asian-American Abbott-and-Costello routine down so cold, they’re a pleasure to spend time with even if the proceedings are less than inspired.
The fresh cast additions don’t fare as well; Tom Lennon and Amir Blumenfeld are wearying distractions as Harold and Kumar’s respective new best friends, and Patton Oswalt is wasted in a blink-and-you-miss-it turn as a shopping-mall Santa.
An early scene in which Harold is confronted by anti-Wall Street protestors hints at a promising topical angle but serves merely as the first of many opportunities to play up the stereoscopic element in the goofiest manner possible; so many random objects are hurled at the screen in slo-mo closeup that the results will be significantly draggier in 2D.
Raw eggs, confetti and a giant clay phallus are just a few of the stereoscopic missiles hurled in the viewer’s direction by “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.” That recurring visual gimmick aptly sums up the hit-or-miss approach typical of this special yuletide edition of the likable stoner-comedy franchise, scaling back its predecessors’ racially and politically charged humor to deliver a string of cartoonish, often violently over-the-top episodes, barely held together by the reliable odd-couple pairing of John Cho and Kal Penn.
Brisk pre-holiday biz and strong ancillary potential should spell a fourth, hopefully sharper outing down the line.
After serving up a sly fable of minority empowerment in “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” (2004) and gleefully lampooning George W.
Bush’s America in “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay” (2008), scribes Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg seem determined to avoid any hint of subversion here, content to serve up a crudely irreverent holiday laffer along the lines of “Bad Santa,” if nowhere near as scathing. Nick take a bullet to the face mid-sleigh ride, this vulgar romp is a generally harmless, heartwarming affair, a cinematic Christmas cookie almost sweet and flaky enough to cover the fact that it’s laced with hash, cocaine and assorted bodily fluids, blood included.
To that end, Hurwitz and Schlossberg have conceived “Christmas” in a spirit of bromantic reconciliation.
Several years after the events of “Guantanamo Bay,” uptight overachiever Harold (Cho) is now a Wall Street hotshot living happily in the suburbs with gorgeous wife Maria (Paula Garces).