Kal Penn (right) and John Cho reprise their roles in this satire-filled piece of counter-culture entertainment.

Let’s talk about subversive cinema, shall we? Here’s a film that begins with Wall Street protesters smearing feces on the car window of a corporate tool and ends with a graphic image of Santa Claus smoking a bong and blowing the hit back at us in 3-D. In between these bracketing rebellions, we get a deep satire of Latino machismo, a graphic investigation of Neil Patrick Harris’s suspect sexual orientation, and, perhaps most taboo-vexing of all, images of a toddler blissfully imbibing illicit drugs and digging it. Maybe it’s a Warner Bros. film, but it reads like The Anarchist Cookbook.

Of course, it’s all in the name of satire, though you must admit that the Harold and Kumar strain has been particularly virulent since its inception in 2004. Back then, it was Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, a vigorous reworking of the buddy bud-toking movie, Cheech and Chong updated as a critique of mainstream (read: straight, white, and dorky) culture. The second film was a little half-hearted, but the Christmas spirit seems to have brought on a rush of fun depravity here. In this installment, Harold (John Cho), now married, tries to save the holidays to please his father-in-law (the resplendent Danny Trejo) while Kumar (Kal Penn) accidentally keeps harshing the buzz.

At times, the film feels a bit like déjà vu: The dance number seems stolen from The Big Lebowski, and when Roldy and Kumar’s psychedelic trip morphs into a stop-action animation world, it’s only a slight improvement over the White Castle cartoon. Yet other scenes work like poetry: A surreal trans-generational beer pong game somehow economically comments on the nature of youth culture, and the critiques of religion are unsparing.

It’s clearly the best counter-cultural entertainment Hollywood provides. And even as storefront pot shops close, it underscores America’s persistent weird underworld and proves, as The Onion once put it, that drugs have clearly won the war on drugs


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