Bestest pals Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) — and, er, their buddy Neil Patrick Harris (played by Neil Patrick Harris) — have been through a lot together, but one thing that’s always gotten them through it? Their cigarette lighter. Well, not really, but when you grab “Harold & Kumar Ultimate Collector’s Edition” from the racks this Christmas, you’ll be getting a lighter-shaped case that holds the BFFs’ three movies. And no, I don’t know what the whole significance of a cigarette lighter is. I guess it’s a warning against starting fires or some such. Probably.
The “highly flammable 3-movie set” includes all three movies in the series (so far) — 2004’s “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle”, 2008’s “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay”, and 2011’s “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas”. You also get coasters and a trio of air fresheners to hang, well, wherever you feel like hanging your movie-themed novelty air fresheners. The box gimmick is great, but of course, it’s all about the movies.
Say hello to Harold Lee and his buddy Kumar Patel. One is serious about his life, while the other … is not so much. They have one thing in common, though — White Castle burgers. On their quest to nab some of the miniature goodies, the boys run afoul of all manner of troubles and as they say, hijinks ensue. “Watchmen’s” Malin Akerman (in an early role) plays a horny housewife who adds to the boy’s troubles. She, along with racist cops and Neil Patrick Harris (played by Neil Patrick Harris) all combine to hinder the boys’ quest for White Castle.
“Harold and Kumar go to White Castle” is a stoner comedy. Cheech and Chong for the new generation, if you will. Granted, the movie could have done better with the female characters, but it’s not like that will be the movie’s primary audience, so I guess the filmmakers might have known what they were doing. Kal Penn and John Cho are effortlessly fun onscreen, and their chemistry was such an instant hit that the film has spawned two sequels so far.
The version of “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle” included here is the “Extremely Unrated” version, which, yes, is definitely the only way to get your introduction to Harold and Kumar. Bonus content includes deleted scenes, a handful of featurettes, and outtakes. You also get two commentary tracks, one with stars Penn and Cho, along with director Danny Leiner. The other track features writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg.
Stoner pals Harold and Kumar return in 2008’s “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay”, which finds the duo, thanks to misadventures at the airport involving (what else?) a bong, landing in the titular Guantanamo Bay as suspected terrorists. But prison can’t hold them for long. Soon, the boys escape and set off across America with the law (and a doofus Rob Corddry) on their tails. Neil Patrick Harris returns, as do random racist encounters that would like to remind you that Harold and Kumar are, you know, not white. In case, I guess, you forgot.
While it has its moments, “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” is a bit of a letdown as a sequel to 2004’s “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle”. While its gags do work more often than they not, they don’t feel quite as fresh anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very solid entry in the series, but it should really be looked on as a continuation of the first movie rather than something that takes it to the next level. Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, who wrote the first movie, takes over directing chores, working from their own screenplay.
As with the “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle” Blu-ray in the set, you get the unrated version of “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay”. There are the standard featurettes and deleted scenes goodies, but also two more audio commentary tracks. The first features the stars and writers/directors, with Hurwitz and Schlossberg returning once again for the second commentary, this time joined by actor James Adomian (who plays George W. Bush in the movie, and really seems to enjoy doing the impression even outside of movies, apparently) as well as the real-life Harold Lee. Lots of goofing off in both tracks make them both worth listening to.
The boys are all grown up in “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas”. Or, at least, Harold is. Kumar is still, well, not so much. Now married and trying to start a family, Harold gets pulled back into Kumar’s full-time stoner world when a very special package arrives at his doorsteps. Amusing supporting turns by Bobby Lee and Danny Trejo (as Harold’s grumpy father-in-law) lighten up this third outing tremendously, and it’s interesting to see the boys all grown up and in the adult world.
But just because they’re all grown up doesn’t mean it’s still not a Harold and Kumar movie. “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” features everything you’d expect from the series and then some. The boys become claymation versions of themselves at one point, Santa makes an unexpected appearance, and Neil Patrick Harris returns to make fun of his real-life “coming out”. I like that the series seems to be progressing, with the actors having grown up. It would have been just odd to see them continue playing college stoners. Todd Strauss-Schulson takes over directing chores, with Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg once again contributing the script.
The version of the film included here is the “Extra Dope Edition”, which comes with an extended cut of the film and a handful of mini-featurettes hosted by Tom Lennon. You also get a behind-the-scenes look at how they did the film’s claymation sequence, along with about 4 minutes of deleted scenes.
“Harold & Kumar Ultimate Collector’s Edition” is a must for fans of the duo, though I would have to honestly think twice about shelling out more money if you already have all three movies on your Blu-ray shelf. If there’s a Harold and Kumar fan in your holiday gift-buying list, you could do worst than “Harold & Kumar Ultimate Collector’s Edition”.