But it’s true. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is a movie that, beneath layers of hijinks, penis-jokes, drug-humour, violence, and waffles, is all about looking at fatherhood from some of its varied sides.
I probably need to explain.
Unlike the first two Harold & Kumar films, which were mostly stoner, road-trip, buddy movies, AVHK3D begins with our heroes not even speaking to each other. Harold has moved on from the apartment he shared with Kumar, and has given up smoking weed, as he enjoys a successful Wall Street job (replete with protestors) and a suburban mansion. Kumar failed a drug test in med school and was kicked out, so spends his days pining for an ex-girlfriend who left him months ago, and smoking as much weed as possible. In Harold’s mainstream, suburban life we meet the first of our father figures: The Hopeful Dad.
Harold is The Hopeful Dad. Why did he stop smoking weed, and stop associating with Kumar? Because he wants to have a baby with his wife, and wants to have that baby in a safe, comfortable life; Kumar brings slackerish disaster with him wherever he goes, and Harold is so committed to being what he thinks a dad should be that he cuts his ties to everything he thinks goes along with being an immature kid. He’s ready. But, of course, there are fertility issues and all of that hope has funneled itself into frustration. He’s not happy with his life, but he thinks he should be, and he’s surrounded himself with all the things he thinks he’ll need to be happy with his life, once his kid finally gets here. One of the things he’s surrounded himself with is another friend, the anti-Kumar: The Suburban Dad.
Tom Lennon (Reno 911) plays the minivan driving, sheepish, clingy, socially awkward, father-friend Todd who, when the adventure to find a Harold a new Christmas tree begins, ends up going along for the ride, with his toddler daughter in tow. Why is she there? Well, because it’s a 3D movie: “It’s Daddy Daughter Day,” he says. Get it? 3D. Todd sticks close with his daughter because he’s been doing a lot of reading, or at least his wife has been, and all of this parenting education has convinced him that if he doesn’t parent the right way, his daughter will end up as a stripper. He’s very nervous. He’s always nervous. Harold doesn’t seem to like him much, since he’s a reminder both of what his future might be like, and of what he has to accept as normal in his life now that he wants to start a family.
Harold is also unhappy that he has to deal with his father-in-law: The Patriarch. Harold’s father-in-law is played by Danny Trejo (Machete) and Trejo plays this role as he plays most of his other roles: as a total badass. He has no patience for Harold, and personifies the kind of dad who would introduce his daughter’s prom date to a shotgun before letting them out the door. He’s intimidating, and doesn’t think anyone is good enough for his daughter. Especially not Harold, since Harold is Korean and a Korean gang killed his mother in an alley.
Even more intimidating than The Patriarch, though, is the insane mobster with whose daughter Harold and Kumar become entangled. Call him The Dupe, though, since he is utterly unable to see through his daughter’s veneer of daddy’s girlness to her real being: She’s way more grown up than she’ll let on to her dad, and he believes she’ll be his little girl forever.
And finally, we have Kumar. Early on in the film, Kumar finds out his ex-girlfriend is pregnant, and Kumar becomes The Unexpectant Father. As so many young men in film have done before, Kumar has to go on a journey of self-discovery after initially screwing up the reaction to his ex’s “You’re going to be a father” revelation. He has to learn from Harold, who’s been trying for a year to have a kid, that you do things you wouldn’t have wanted to do as a selfish twenty-something stoner when you have another person in your life whose happiness matters. He has to learn from Todd, and his daughter, that you don’t smoke weed in the minivan, but that maybe you can settle a kid out of a tantrum by tossing off some Wu Tang Clan lyrics. He has to learn from WaffleBot that loyalty is rewarded with loyalty.
And Neil Patrick Harris? He’s still just looking to trip balls.