A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, John Cho, left, and Kal Penn are shown in a scene from "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas."

Warner Bros. Pictures

I was among the cult following that made "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" the stoner classic it is today. Its 2008 follow-up, "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay," had just enough laughs for me to give it a recommendation. I would be lying though if I said that the series wasn't starting to run out of gas after two films. I hoped that "Harold & Kumar" would be a franchise that had the artistic integrity to call it quits early like "Wayne's World" or "Bill and Ted." Instead, it appears that the filmmakers want to make Harold & Kumar this generation's Cheech & Chong with sequel after sequel.

"A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" suffers from the same problems as "The Hangover Part II" from earlier this year. First and foremost, the "Harold & Kumar" formula has become too familiar. Secondly, there just aren't as many laugh-out-loud moments this time around. Even the film's stars, John Cho and Kal Penn, seem worn out by the roles that skyrocketed them into fame.

This time around, the guys have grown apart as Harold has become a successful Wall Street executive and Kumar has been kicked out of medical school. The two are reunited on Christmas Eve and accidentally burn down the prized Christmas tree that was grown by Harold's father-in-law, well played by Danny Trejo. Harold and Kumar set out on a series of misadventures involving a mob boss, a stoned baby, and even Santa himself to find the perfect Christmas tree.

There is a lot of material in "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" that sounds really hilarious on paper, such as a claymation acid trip sequence and a subplot about two feuding mob enforcers. But most of these gags are overly rushed and end up being forgettable. Then there's the 3-D gimmick, which is funny when a character first knowingly gives two thumbs up to the camera. The in-joke gets pretty old after the third time something comes flying at the screen however. Neil Patrick Harris is also back for another extended cameo. Like the film itself, Harris isn't nearly as unpredictable as he was in the original film.

This third chapter in the "Harold & Kumar" saga has its moments and may appease die-hard fans. But it's simply too thin and familiar for my taste. There is one saving grace in "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas," the Wafflebot. As you might have guessed, it's a little robot that cooks and serves waffles with the resemblance of a mechanized Pillsbury Doughboy. My face lightened up every time this character came on screen. So I'll make the filmmakers a deal. If you can convince Warner Bros. Studios to manufacture actual working Wafflebots as a tie-in, I'll give your movie an additional star. Until then, I'm afraid I must stick to my guns.

• Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at nspake@asu.edu.

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