There has and always will be something magical about watching people get baked on screen and then do something intensely stupid. Why? The answer has a lot to do with the fact that many of us know the feeling and can relate. And even if it’s crappy reality TV, the ability to relate allows for a connection with the audience despite the utter stupidity or inanity of the content.

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas

At Quality 16 and Rave
Warner Bros.

Some of the greatest stoner flicks, like “The Big Lebowski” and “Dazed and Confused,” were grounded by the implausibility of every major plot development. Underlying themes of the struggle to confront immaturity and obscurity added the personal touch that made the films worthwhile. Falling within these expected bounds is “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas,” the latest in a franchise that has now spanned eight years.

In those eight years, nothing in particular has changed except the age of the two leads. The movie still features an assorted selection of racial jokes, sexual innuendo, rampant drug use and, of course, Neil Patrick Harris (TV’s “How I Met Your Mother”).

That’s not to say that anything about this movie is predictable. Viewers still get to experience the same “WTF” moments from the first two movies, all stemming from the worst kind of decision-making possible. The jokes, no matter how crude in taste they may be, are still hilarious.

But what made the first movie more than just another funny stoner comedy was the way it questioned racial stereotypes. Harold (John Cho, “Star Trek”) and Kumar (Kal Penn, “The Namesake”) are still very likable characters, but by now their antics are so identifiable that it’s not surprising to see them responsible for so much drug-induced mayhem.

The mayhem here ensues when Kumar accidentally burns down the 12-foot Douglas fir tree grown by Harold’s Christmas-obsessed father-in-law (Danny Trejo, “Machete”). The rest of the movie is spent trying to find a replacement tree before the father-in-law returns from midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Along for the ride are Adrian (CollegeHumor’s Amir Blumenfeld), Todd (Thomas Lennon, TV’s “Reno 911”) and Todd’s five-year-old daughter Caren (newcomer Isabella Gielniak) who, as the film progresses, gets exposed to marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and other drugs.

At times, the convoluted nature of the plot, which also involves Ukranian mobsters and Santa Claus, takes the edge away from what could have been the funniest jokes of the movie. Though the humor is as vulgar as it’s ever been, it doesn’t catch the audience off guard because too much time is spent thinking about all the stupid little details that make the storyline function.

The one performance that brings excitement to the screen is Harris’s, who reappears as the fictionalized sex- and drug-crazed version of himself. The thing that elevates his character is that he’s erratic. Because the dramatized NPH is capable of every imaginable monstrosity, the audience can never really tell what insane thing he’ll think of next.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Harold and Kumar, who, like this movie, end up being funny but are all too lost within unoriginal, unnecessary character details.

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