Our favorite stoner-semi-slackers are back, doing what they do best, toking up and creating ridiculous amounts of mischief.

For fans of the Harold and Kumar series, it’s been three long years since the last, semi-underwhelming entry, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. For the infinitely patient, however, Harold and Kumar’s latest, but hopefully not last, big-screen, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, offers ample amounts of the profanity, vulgarity and raunchiness that made Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle a surprising post-theatrical success (e.g., cable, DVD) seven years ago. Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) represented and subverted stereotypes about Asians (Korean in Harold’s case, Indian in Kumar’s place): two supremely smart, clever stoner-slackers who couldn’t get enough of the wonder weed.

Their first journey/road-trip took them through a surreal landscape of deviancy, criminality, surfer-punks, backcountry freak shows, and a hormonally hyperactive “Neil Patrick Harris” (Neil Patrick Harris, playing a highly fictionalized version of the movie and/or TV star as appetite-driven, amoral egotist). The same journey ended with Harold and Kumar finally reaching their ostensible destination, White Castle, an open-all-night, fast-food chain endemic to the Northeast, especially New Jersey where the first film was set. Harold and Kumar learned a few life lessons along the way (e.g., not getting caught with weed, the need to balance work with play, among others). Harold finally got the nerve to chat up a hot neighbor, Maria (Paula Garcés), minutes before she departed for a trip abroad, Amsterdam to be exact.

Their second journey, a roundabout meandering attempt to reach Amsterdam, took Harold and Kumar to Guantanamo Bay, not out of choice, of course. A topical takedown of our over-zealous, fear-driven response to Muslim terrorists, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay exchanged (some) laughs for satire, but still managed to deliver enough pointed barbs, low-, middle-, and high-brow humor to double the first film’s box-office take (again augmented by profitable ancillary revenue) and all-but-guarantee another sequel. In the meantime, Cho went on to co-star in the Star Trek reboot and a one-season TV series, Flashforward while Penn took time off from acting to take a publicity gig with the Obama White House before returning in front of the camera on TV’s House.

When we initially catch up with Harold and Kumar in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, they’ve grown apart, emotionally and geographically. Kumar still lives in the apartment he once shared with Harold, except now it’s an absolute, complete disaster area. His one-time girlfriend, Vanessa Fanning (Danneel Ackles), the same ex-girlfriend he managed to steal away from her then fiancé in the second film, has left him due to refusal to stop smoking weed nonstop and growup (he’s lost a job due to a failed job test). Harold seems to have everything. He’s settled down with Maria (Paula Garcés), he’s ridden out the recession,prospered during said recession due to his investment-banking job on Wall Street, and even has an unnamed assistant (Bobby Lee) at his constant beck and call. Harold even has a new best friend, Todd (Thomas Lennon), who’s everything Kumar isn’t (straight-edged, super-responsible, suburban, father, etc.).

When Kumar, the disruptive, anarchic force to Harold’s calm, controlled one, inadvertently destroys the Christmas tree Maria’s gravelly voiced, fearsome-looking, Christmas tree-obsessed father (Danny Trejo) has transported from their Southwest home, Harold’s forced to join up with Kumar, on Christmas Eve no less, to find a replacement. Kumar’s slacker neighbor, Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld), promises to help in exchange for accompanying him to Manhattan where he plans to deflower a high-school senior, Mary (Jordan Hinson). Mary also happens to be the daughter of Sergei Katsov (Elias Koteas), a fear-and-trembling inducing Ukrainian mobster with an ice cream fixation and a creepily overprotective father’s desire to perpetually protect his daughter’s virginity.

Paralleling the first film’s one-and-done format, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas takes place over a 24-hour period, a narrative device that, once again, gives structure and even urgency to what would be a thin premise otherwise. Add to that a carefully calibrated script and the result nearly equals the first film and surpasses the first sequel on a pure joke-to-running-time ratio. If that’s not cause for premature celebration, it’s hard to know what, in fact, is.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

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