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Harold & Kumar Likable, Heist Hopeless

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A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
  • A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

REVIEWS

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. I'm kind of a sucker for Christmas movies. And buddy comedies, and stoner pictures. So, despite the fact that I checked out of the Harold and Kumar franchise shortly after being nonplussed by the trip to White Castle, I was prepared to enjoy this one, even if I had to see it in 3D.         

As it turns out, Christmas is enough fun to ameliorate the offense inherent in 3D glasses. I even forgot I had the damn things on for a few minutes.

No one's life is going to be changed by having seen this movie, but it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to. It reunites our estranged protagonists, then puts them through an increasingly ludicrous series of adventures, punctuating the goings-on with pot and dick jokes.

Plotwise, there isn't a whole lot happening. Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) have drifted apart. The former has transitioned comfortably to the suburban bliss of the upwardly mobile, while the latter had slid further into the weedy miasma of the lonely stoner. When a mysterious package for Harold appears on Kumar's doorstep, he figures he should deliver it, and we're off to the races.

After delivering the package, Kumar manages to burn down Harold's father-in-law's beloved Christmas tree, setting in motion a frenzied tree search that has the boys caroming from an underage house party at a Ukrainian gangster's penthouse to midnight mass and a dress rehearsal for a Christmas musical extravaganza. Along the way, they rediscover the bond that made them such fast friends in the first place. It's a Christmas miracle! Then they accidentally shoot Santa Claus in the face.

It would be easy to dismiss or dislike this movie, but there's something inherently likeable about it. Much of the credit is due to Cho and Penn, who make their characters sympathetic when they could easily have turned loathsome. And the supporting cast is populated with capable pros as varied as Thomas Lennon and Danny Trejo. And of course, Neil Patrick Harris is back, reprising his role as himself with gleeful, fatalistic abandon. (Spoiler alert: He died in the last movie, but got kicked out of heaven for getting a hand job from one of Jesus' girlfriends. If that kind of thing offends, this might not be the holiday movie for you.) Rated R. 90m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

Tower Heist. When director Brett Ratner isn't making a case for himself as the worst guy in the world by speaking in interviews, he makes movies like this -- big, expensive, artless and broadly commercial throwaways directed at the lowest common denominator. The movies offer no challenges to the viewer and make embarrassing amounts of money.

On the face of it, Tower Heist might seem more topical than Ratner's usual. But the plot is just a thin skin covering a hyper-formulaic skeleton. Alan Alda plays a Bernie Madoff-style investor who bilks the staff of his posh apartment tower out of their pensions. Ben Stiller, as the building manager, won't stand for it. He gets fired, then hatches a payback scheme with help from neighborhood petty crook Slide (Eddie Murphy) and a handful of sad-sacks.

Sounds implausible already, doesn't it? But that's the most believable part of the whole plot. By the denouement, things have gotten so hackneyed and utterly unbelievable one almost forgets that the cast is, for the most part, really good. Stiller plays well with Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Michael Pena and a host of others, and Murphy is finally back in a role that lets him tap into the Eddie Murphy we came to love in his standup and early roles. Unfortunately, this movie doesn't deserve him. It's another pointless exercise in big dumb movie-making, in spite of some strong performances by genuinely talented actors, who I hope were well-compensated. Rated PG-13. 105m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

PREVIEWS:

IMMORTALS. If you've been jonesin' for a good ol' sword-and-sandal flick, you may be in luck. Mickey Rourke stars as the brutal and bloodthirsty King Hyperion whose murderous Heraklion army has been scouring Greece in search of the long lost Bow of Epirus (whatever that is). Village after village is destroyed until Hyperion messes with the wrong stonemason -- Henry Cavill as Theseus. Can Theseus avenge his village and family? Rated R. 110m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.

JACK AND JILL. Oh, boy. Adam Sandler stars as a successful advertising executive who dreads one event each year: the grueling Thanksgiving visit of his twin sister played by -- get ready for it -- Adam Sandler! Can he stomach this year's Turkey Day? Can you? Rated PG. 93m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

ANONYMOUS. You've all heard the theory that William Shakespeare might not have produced all the plays attributed to him, right? Well, they made a movie about it. Set in Elizabethan England, the film focuses on why political scandals and high-profile affairs may have found their way to the stage. Rated PG-13. 130m. At the Broadway.

J. EDGAR. Leonardo DiCaprio uses his heaviest looking face ever to give weight to a biopic about one of the most powerful, controversial American figures of the 20th Century: J. Edgar Hoover. (I guess the title gave it away.) Rated R. 138m. At the Broadway.

The Arcata Theater Lounge has a weighty week ahead. On Thursday night it's another Ocean Night, featuring the film Come Hell or Highwater about bodysurfing and The Cycle of Insanity about how the water cycle we all learned as kids has been altered over time. On Saturday, local advocacy group Label GMOs presents the film The Future of Food. On Sunday it's Superman (1978) (that's the good one, kids). And finally, Wednesday's Pint and Pizza night features a night of "Marihuana Madness" with the films Aphrodisiac: The Sexual Secret of Marijuana (1971) and Marijuana (1936).

Continuing:

COURAGEOUS. Four men, one calling: To serve and protect. Rated PG-13. 130m. At the Broadway.

IN TIME. In a world where you stop aging at 25 and immortality can be bought, Justin Timberlake looks good. Rated PG-13. 110m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3. Ghouls Gone Wild, and caught on tape. R. 84m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Garberville and Fortuna.

PUSS IN BOOTS. Three Shrek movies plus this solo outing. Five lives left, kitty. PG. 90m. In 3D and 2D at the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

REAL STEEL. Boxing robots. PG-13. 127m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

THE RUM DIARY. Based on a book by Hunter S. Thompson. Are you surprised it stars Johnny Depp? Rated R. 122m. At the Broadway, the Minor and Mill Creek.

THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Somewhere along the line, these guys decided they prefer swords. PG-13. At the Broadway.

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