First they embarked on an all-night trek to satisfy a marijuana-induced craving for hamburgers. Then they wound up fugitives on the run after a misguided attempt to really enjoy a flight to Amsterdam.
Now the goofy twosome is back and bringing all the â??highsâ? of the season in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.
Picking Up Six Years Later
Itâ??s been six years since Guantanamo Bay (actually, itâ??s only been three years between films, but in the world of Harold and Kumar, six have elapsed) and the two are now sadly estranged. Harold has moved on and up from the days of his friendship with Kumar, married to Maria and looking to settle down for good. Kumar, meanwhileâ?¦well, he hasnâ??t changed much. Both have new best friends to suit their lifestyle and it looks to be Harold and Todd (played by Tom Lennon) and Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld) and Kumar.
That is until Christmas Eve when a mysterious package left anonymously on Kumarâ??s doorstep brings the two back together and once again on a disaster-riddled quest â?? this time for the perfect Christmas tree. Complete with mobster shootouts, claymation genitalia and yes, NPH (Neil Patrick Harris), Harold and Kumar bring with them all the guilty groans and chuckles that are characteristic of the cult classics.
John & Kal
John Cho (Harold) and Kal Penn (Kumar) were recently in Toronto for a roundtable interview to discuss the film and their experiences playing the endearing characters.
â??I have such a great time playing Kumar,â? says Penn, who says that in real life he is much more like Harold. â??Heâ??s so different than me, so itâ??s a real treat to be able to play someone like that.â?
â??Itâ??s a relief to come back to comedy,â? adds Cho. â??Making it your dayâ??s work to find a laugh is a really good way to spend a day; I appreciate it more going away and then coming back to it. Itâ??s like a class reunionâ?¦youâ??re with toffees all your friends again.â?
This film sees the addition of some new friends in the form of Lennon and Blumenfeld, which took a bit of adjustment for the actors.
â??It was really strange, sitting in the passenger seat of a car that wasnâ??t Haroldâ??s Camry,â? says Penn. â??The crazy thingâ?¦is that Amir plays the epitome of what Kumar would be if he continued down the path that he was on. But Amirâ??s character doesnâ??t have the heart that Kumarâ??s has.â?
â??Itâ??s sort of Ghosts of Christmas Future for their characters,â? says Cho. â??Tom Lennon plays the guy that Harold is going to be if he doesnâ??t stop being a ****head. And same for Amirâ??s character. But they were terrific to work with; Tom Lennon is fantastic and Amir is super funny. Itâ??s new blood.â?
What about the decision to set the film six years after Guantanamo Bay?
â??The first two movies take place within a minute of each other in the lives of the characters,â? explains Penn. â??And in this one itâ??s six year later. All of us have done different things since the first movie. I love that the audience also has aged with the characters; the ones that enjoyed it in â??04. So hopefully thereâ??s something in it for them.â?
â??I didnâ??t know whether I would have wanted to do a movie set a minute after the second one,â? says Cho. â??I didnâ??t think that was feasible anymore; we had to age the characters, I felt. Additionally, very public things happened between the second and third onesâ?¦Neil came out, Kal went to work at the White Houseâ?¦it felt like we couldnâ??t do that age anymore. Our hand was forced a little bit by real life, and Iâ??m glad of it.â?
Testing Comedic Boundaries
Itâ??s no secret the Harold and Kumar films push the envelope in terms of comedic material and often run the risk of causing offense. This third film is no exception, and in some ways tests toffees those boundaries even moreâ?¦so where do they go from here?
â??I think theyâ??re just going to start showing organs,â? muses Penn. â??First it was showing an arm or a leg back in the day and that was scandalous. Now the genitalsâ?¦so weâ??ll just go inside.â?
â??I donâ??t know what the next frontier is, but good comedy should put its toes in taboo waters,â? says Cho. â??And you have to transgress a little bit; that area shifts with culture and with the year.â?
So at the end of the day, has playing the perpetual stoners helped or damaged their respective careers?
â??What made me want to pursue being an actor was the magic that comes from being able to make somebody laugh or cry or suspend an emotion or feel something they hadnâ??t intended to feel before,â? says Penn. â??Itâ??s flattering to know that people enjoyed the Harold and Kumar movies. My experience has been that itâ??s opened doors in some really unexpected ways; having a chance to have a little arc on 24 or audition for Superman Returns. It seems like the really smart producers, directors and writers are more willing to take a risk to see if you can play something different rather than it being a real hindrance. With The Namesake, I lobbied really hard to get in the room with (director) Mira Nair and the reason she didnâ??t want me to audition at first was because of Harold and Kumar. But her 16-year old son kept lobbying, unbeknownst to me, before bed every night saying ‘Mom, youâ??ve got to audition Kal Penn.’ I wrote her a letter at the same time her son was really beating her over the head with it so she let me come in and audition.â?
As for Cho, â??Iâ??m sure it has probably closed a few doors, but the big story is that itâ??s opened many more.â?
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas opens in theatres Friday, November 4, 2011