Don’t laugh if I predict A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas turns out to be both one of the most earnest and subversive studio releases of the season. The two concepts are not unrelated. This franchise has always had a dissident streak: The first film was mostly predicated on the novelty of an Indian and a Korean being stoner buddies, and the second attempted — and failed, but in a good-hearted, not-very-ambitious way — political digs at the War on Terror and George W. Bush. This one starts with Harold (John Cho), now gone fully corporate, watching a gaggle of protesters outside his Wall Street office. Though this lucky bit of OWS topicality goes nowhere, the movie quickly turns its attention to Christmas, which as the conspiratorial War on Christmas has made clear, can be turned to political ends if need be.
But there is a ghost in this particular machine. As the seasonal plot churns like clockwork, and our heroes accept that they need to conquer their flaws and become better, stronger family men, the film actually makes the stoner ethos part of its portrait of an ordered, happy world. Harold and Kumar may have many challenges to face, but pot is not one of them: The ability to share a joint with a friend, or to have a beloved let you use their urine for a drug test, has a proud place in the film’s vision of blissful, multicultural domesticity. In the end, its very predictability — Harold and Kumar will get high — is at the heart of the film’s gently revolutionary thesis: Spliffs and Christmas, they fit together like Santa in chimneys. Harold & Kumar is a perfectly calibrated Christmas cheer machine designed to prove the awesomeness of friends, family, and drugs.