I was pretty sure that the line between being lame and making fun of being lame was fairly distinct but in this film Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) push it so hard it almost dissolves. We’ve all come a long way since the original film came out in 2004 and charmed everyone with the unpretentiousness of its protagonists’ aspirations (they just wanted some of those scrumptious square burgers from White Castle) and its own (silly stoner fun). The sequel in 2008 brought in a politics by taking our heroes to Guantanamo prison and a meeting with the President. And now they’re back.
Harold has moved on. He is married to the beautiful Maria (Paula Garces) and has a beautiful home and a fancy job on Wall Street. He even has an obsequious assistant.
What he doesn’t have is the respect of his father-in-law (the scary Danny Trejo) or his old friend. Harold hangs out with a dweeby new friend, now, and his name is Todd (Tom Lennon). He and Kumar have gone their separate ways and never see each other.
Kumar has been kicked out of med school for failing a drug test. His girlfriend has left him. All he has left is a weed habit and a dweeby new friend, Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld). He and Harold have nothing in common anymore. But when he brings Harold a package that was delivered to their old apartment and accidentally sets Harold’s father-in-law’s prize Christmas tree on fire, they team up again to find a replacement and go on a journey that will include drugs, nudity, a claymation interlude, a song and dance from Neil Patrick Harris (worth the price of admission as a demented version of himself, singing and dancing and explaining that the gay thing is just a ruse to help him get more girls), more drugs including marijuana smoke in 3D that floats out into the theater, 3D jokes, hot nude nuns, Russian gangsters, and a drug-taking baby.
It hasn’t quite jumped the doobie yet, but the shtick is getting tired. Things that were funny in a college kid are not so funny when they get older and Kumar’s pudgy slacker-hood just seems sad. It’s as though they made a check-list of ways to be outrageous instead of letting the humor come naturally from the situations. When they and their characters were new to us we enjoyed the sense of discovery. But when they make jokes about Penn’s service in the White House and Harris is no longer a has-been but, thanks in part to the first movie, an Entertainment Weekly cover/J.J. Abrams musical-starring success, it feels phoned in and phony.
Parents should know that this movie has every possible kind of offensive material including constant extremely strong and crude language, drinking and pervasive and enthusiastic drug use, explicit sexual references and situations with very explicit male and female (and clay figure) nudity, intentionally offensive and provocative humor including nude nuns and drug use by a baby, comic but very graphic violence
Family discussion: Whose fault is it that Harold and Kumar were estranged? Why did they make such different choices? What will happen in the next in the series?
If you like this, try: the previous Harold & Kumar movies and “Up in Smoke”