‘Harold and Kumar’ makes bold moves with 3D medium

THERE ARE FOUR people of note making use of 3-D technology this holiday season: Scorsese, Spielberg and Harold and Kumar.

The latter have given us "A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas," and it makes gung-ho use of the format. It has become fashionable to make use of 3-D by avoiding, at all costs, the cheesy spectacle of someone tossing an object at your face.

How refreshing, then, to find Harold and Kumar boldly engaging the fourth wall - throwing snowballs at your face, blowing smoke rings of marijuana smoke at your face.

To be in the proper frame of mind for the new "Harold and Kumar," you'd probably have to break a couple of laws, especially if you're driving.

I saw it sober, so I don't think it measures up to the original, but it does preserve the franchise's multiethnic flavor and lowbrow appeal, although it seems more "Cheech and Chong" than ever.

The story finds Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) in early midlife, separated now by varying degrees of maturity. Harold is married with a nice house in the 'burbs, Kumar is jobless and sapped of all direction and ambition, in part because his lips are welded to a bong.

What could bring these old friends together? Why, a Christmas miracle. Kumar receives a package meant for Harold, delivers it to his house, and ends up "helping" Harold in his quest to find the perfect Christmas tree.

This involves statutory rape, Russian mobsters, firing a shotgun at Santa, visiting Jesus' bachelor pad, Thomas Lennon, Danny Trejo, and of course, Neil Patrick Harris. All in 3-D (drugs, drinking, Doogie).

"Harold and Kumar" is the kind of low-rent franchise that has a tough time with prosperity - a once obscure sleeper now a major holiday 3-D release. Even Harris has gone legit; he's an Oscar night performer with a long-running TV show.

And much has changed, even since "White Castle," just a decade ago. It was easier to make transgressive comedy when the culture was less polluted.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson. With Patton Oswalt, Paula Garcés, John Cho, Elias Koteas, Danny Trejo, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Thomas Lennon, Danneel Ackles, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 29 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence).