With A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, I feel like this 3D medium has finally wiggled into its comfort zone.

Films like Avatar or Transformers: Dark of the Moon are always heralded as game changers that throw expensive visuals at the viewer’s face – because that’s what Hollywood thinks is important to you. And there’s more money in that proverbial banana stand – more so than engaging characters or profound story development. You can’t charge extra for those.

A funny thing happens when watching the big budget 3D fare, though: after about an hour, the brain adjusts to what’s happening on screen. There’s a point in 3D films where the effect wears off. This is not the immersive experience we were promised. You can only see Optimus Prime decapitate so many robots before, 3D or not, who the fuck cares? There’s no more lasting impression than if you were watching the same thing in 2D. Typically.

Speaking of lasting impressions: A giant, throbbing claymation penis flying at your head in full-3D splendor. That’s pretty much the gist of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas – a collection of 3D skits strewn together by tinsel and wrapped in cheap giftpaper that smells like your grandfather’s aftershave. It’s a familiar offering, like a gift from a couple old friends. Unwrap it, dust it off, and you’re guaranteed a couple hours of fun.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas works on a couple levels; 3D being the first. In his first feature, director Todd Strauss-Schulson proves he has an eye for how to swing in the third dimension. Like Piranha 3D before it, this film is most concerned with how much bodily fluid, pot smoke, cock and 3D boobage it can shoehorn into, and then blow back out of, an 89 minute runtime. This isn’t a bad thing – they’re treating 3D for exactly what it is: a gimmick. And as a gimmick it works superbly.

NPH salutes no man.

The other thing I took away was how much I’ve come to dig the characters over three films. I like where Harold and Kumar are at in the beginning of this movie. Estranged and bitter, the guys aren’t talking anymore. Harold (John Cho) ended up getting married to Maria (Paula Garcés, who magically has only gotten hotter with age) and is now a bigwig on Wall Street. Kumar is still stoner Kumar, except lonelier. His tired girlfriend (Daneel Harris Ackles returning from Guantanamo) has left him to sit alone in his apartment and smoke weed all day.

The events that bring them back together are beyond dubious – this is by far the least grounded of the H&K films. But I can appreciate the “everything and the kitchen sink” mentality at work here. On a quest to find a perfect Christmas tree to replace the one they burned down, whole heaps of shit hit the fan. Babies get high on ecstasy, a robot shoots jizzy waffle syrup, Santa eats a bullet; and of course, Neil Patrick Harris provides update on his never-ending quest for trim.

Though there’s a lot to enjoy, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas still amounts to slightly less than the sum of its parts. This feels like a script that was written with Sharpie on a white board. There’s very little story or structure besides transitioning into the next bit. It feels like Jackass in that respect, as the scenes are for the most part entirely interchangeable. There’s only the faintest hint of a narrative, with more consideration being given to what trouble the boys can get into than why they’re there. As a fan of Jackass, that’s not a dealbreaker for me.

But there’s a danger in taking that route in a scripted film, and by the time Harold and Kumar are riding on Santa’s sleigh I could feel my interest waning. When the film’s funny it’s really funny; but the jokes that miss the mark do so by wide margin. The high baby is funny. The high baby with super speed and Spider-man reflexes isn’t, and after five minutes it grates. There’s a lot of stuff with Harold’s effeminate neighbor Todd (Reno 911’s Thomas Lennon) that offers nothing. I think the filmmakers sensed this, which is why he gets locked in a closet for the duration of Christmas’ second half.

How early is too early to request a spinoff film for Wafflebot?

But regardless of the faults, I could see adding A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas to my holiday rotation over the next few years. Like its predecessors, there’s more that works than doesn’t. And I like that they took the Christmas Vacation route, structuring it in a way that doesn’t make the first and second entries required viewing.

I could also see this as being my favorite 3D film of Jim Cameron’s modern renaissance. I don’t put the format on a pedestal, clearly neither did these guys – which I truly respect.  Something will definitely be lost in translation on Blu-ray (for those of use without fancy 3D HDTVs). So I say embrace the holiday spirit and wring whatever enjoyment you can out of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

If you’re going to see a claymation penis, you owe it to yourself to see it in 3D.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars

Follow Tim on Twitter: @roboTimKelly