Claymation penis, pot smoke rings, and bloody teeth. Welcome to 3D in 2012 Hollywood, the Harold & Kumar franchise bringing a record setting flair for class into another dimension. Well, actually, that should be “crass.” It’s so easy to get those confused with a movie like this.
The film is so delicate in how it handles the trippy highs of a one-year old baby, rapidly addicted to cocaine and savoring the succulent high of pot. In all honesty, that’s not a line you foresee writing with this chosen career path. Even afterward, it’s still not sinking in like it happened.
Maybe this third entry -which means Harold & Kumar is blessed with a trilogy moniker- deserves some credit. It does acknowledge the sheer idiocy of 3D, although it’s debatable if that means it should just get away with it scot-free. Setting up the two leads as bitter, kinda/sorta ex-friends has some merit in that it adds to the quirkiness while bringing in some fresh faces.
It’s difficult to scold an entry of the series for being stupid considering where it’s been. After Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) were nearly raped in Guantanamo Bay last time, shooting Santa Claus in the face seems mild. So does the animated sequence with a killer snowman on the loose depicting a bad trip and fluffy squirrels. Oh, and the MPAA was totally cool with the animated penis being shoved into the camera. Maybe they appreciated the work that went into it?
If a swinging, disturbingly detailed, lengthy penis was as low as Harold and Kumar went, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a crushing disappointment. Yes, that insinuates there was actual excitement going in, but Guantanamo Bay at least had some pep. This one reaches for every gag, and almost seems to enjoy the idea of Neil Patrick Harris raping one of his stage dancers. Every scenario feels thrown together, the ultimate goal not the awesomeness of White Castle but a Christmas tree.
Believe it or not, there’s actually character arcs here, the two potheads learning to not only deal with each other again, but sort of regressing and growing up. There’s pregnancy for Kumar to handle and a stifling father-in-law for Harold, each handling it in a sort of reverse flow. They turn into each other, even if the events they go through have absolutely nothing to do with that progression. How anyone learns to handle the pressures of being a new father by jumping into a chorus line with NPH is a mystery, even one that’s been fueled with cocaine, ecstasy, and felony levels of pot.
Harold & Kumar Christmas finds itself in the ultimate digital battle: a one-on-one showdown with video noise… So. Much. Video noise. In fact, it basically has the ability to take over the frame, doing what it wants, when it wants, even if that means sacking fine detail. It can hide, appear like a floating grain over the image, or flock and buzz around the image as if it’s a colony of bees after honey. One can only imagine the wonder of Panavision Genesis artifacts in 3D.
For everything else, this transfer merely exists. Inconsistent issues like glazing contrast that flares up at random intervals are forgettable given their brief intrusion. Black levels will only ruin their impact with a stray shot here or there, and the stupidity of the color timing only hampers a scene or two. For the record, who has a car trunk with a teal light?
Like the other films in this franchise, Harold & Kumar’s idiocy is presented in a saturated, bright world. Colors, aside from those gaffes above, are peppy and brilliant. Primaries are given zest, while flesh tones feel natural, stable, and pure. They don’t feel afflicted with orange death like so many comedies these days.
What’s missing here is definition, a crisp, consistent appearance of high-fidelity detail. There’s more wow factor pouring from the likely stock city aerials than with the close-ups. Part of that is the noise, the other being a blandness to the photography as a whole. Even the best stuff here is still mediocre, languishing as it tries to find a grip on this material. Harold & Kumar doesn’t look awful; many will find the combo of color and black levels enough to satisfy. For those looking to hunker down and get into a movie visually, why would you choose this in the first place?
New Line/Warner delivers this disc on a BD-50, usually irrelevant information to the review process. Here, it does make a difference, as the extended cut of the movie (which runs only six minutes longer than the theatrical one), does not offer uncompressed audio. There’s plenty of space left, almost 12GB, so why the exclusive home version is shafted is anyone’s guess.
Regardless, the DTS-HD track that comes standard with the shorter edition is a crowd pleaser. After all, all of those extraneous 3D effects have to be placed somewhere in the soundfield. It’s a quick starter too, less than five minutes in the disc producing an egg fight as protesters douse a corporate employee with what seems like 25 dozen yolks. They zip around, splatter in the rears, and catch in the stereos, the effect quite enveloping.
Visual flashbacks are quite active too, these dream-like scenarios dropping into the low-end for dramatic thrust and spreading machine gun fire (or other elements) around generously. Music will wake up anybody, neighbors included, as characters enter clubs or parties. The droning low-end goes far enough to be considered a little out of balance.
The rest of the music, a mixture of classic Christmas tunes and new ones (that you won’t be singing with the family) are breezy, spacious, and clean. No matter the age, the source proves up to date, matching fidelity while sweeping around into the rears. Somebody cared in the mixing room.
Through the Haze with Tom Lennon has the actor/comedian on set being interviewed for some laughs, split into six short sections that would have been easier to handle in one chunk. Bringing Harold & Kumar to Claymation Life starts off as insightful before turning into a storyboard comparison. There’s nothing here on the actual process. A short series of deleted scenes and Warner’s BD-Live portal are left, meaning fans will have to wait for the ultimate trilogy box set later down the road (!).