Have any of you seen that squiggly line techy types use to describe the stages of reaction to new technologies? Known as the hype cycle, it’s shaped roughly like the outline of a supine penguin and its contours have been labelled with gloriously Tolkienian titles like the “Peak of Inflated Expectations”, the “Trough of Disillusionment”, and the “Plateau of Productivity”.
The reason I bring it up is that thanks to enjoyable new release, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, the hype cycle for 3D filmmaking has just received a new little notch, hereafter to be known as the “Rocky Outcrop of Merciless Piss-taking”.
Alongside all of its blunt-smoking, Santa-being-shot-in-the-face hilarity, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas delivers something largely unexpected: a pretty spot-on deconstruction of the current state of 3D cinema.
Other releases might have ripped the piss out of 3D before now – the best gag in Joe Carnahan’s The A-Team was 3D-related, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was promoted as having been shot in “revolutionary 2D” – but none serves up quite such a sustained parody as Harold & Kumar’s festive stoner flick.
In its story of two estranged friends coming together one Christmas Eve, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is the first of the modern crop of 3D releases to thumb its nose at the technology whilst taking advantage of the spectacle it provides. It subverts most 3D films’ promise of being immersive experiences by self-consciously pointing and laughing at its use of the technology.
That gag from The A-Team, to jog your memory, involved a roomful of psychiatric patients in 3D glasses gathered in front of a projector screen. At the exact moment a Humvee moves towards the camera in 3D, an actual Humvee bursts through the wall, causing the audience to whoop with applause.
That was just one moment, but A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas delivers a whole movie’s worth. The film replicates the gimmicks of 3D cinema with a knowing wink, gleefully poking its audience in the face with a range of unsavoury prodding devices. When it does so, it’s not saying “Look how impressive this effect is”, but mocking 3D’s over-reliance on face-poking and chucking stuff out of the screen.
The new Harold & Kumar even flexes some film-nerd muscles with what looks ever so much like an inventive take on the old paddle-ball 3D trick made famous in the 1953 House of Wax. In the fifties film, a showman famous for bouncing a Ping-Pong ball on an elastic string into crowds (and people say entertainment’s dumbed down these days …) replicated the trick on screen, bouncing the ball into the audience via the magic of stereoscopy. In A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, the game might have changed to beer pong, but the effect is the same as a Ping-Pong ball ricochets around a room, careening into the audience.
Things kick off in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas with a bravura scene of weed-smoking that’s every bit as effective as Scorsese’s use of drifting train smoke in Hugo. The difference being that Scorsese believes that 3D is the future of filmmaking, while director Todd Strauss-Schulson thinks differently. There’s no doubt about it, this is a movie which knows precisely what it’s doing with its third dimension.
In one of the stoner comedy’s more blatant meta-moments, a character wrinkles his nose at 3D, saying it’s jumped the shark. His friend reassures him that 3D is “going to be amazing!” and reaching out a cheesy double thumbs up straight to camera over the audience’s heads.
The end result is what US comedy series Community would look like if it did a 3D episode, that’s the level of irony and self-awareness exhibited by the Harold & Kumar flick (and seeing as the film wholesale nicks Community’s Claymation style, the show may even have been an influence).
The bad news, unfortunately, is this. Remember the first bullet time spoof you ever saw? Funny, wasn’t it? But how about the second one? Or the gazillionth? (Or the one in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas for that matter…).
Because once one movie has taken a spoof approach to its 3D, more will follow in its wake, and every time a film knowingly lobs stuff out of the screen, or breaks the fourth wall to comment on its cleverness, it will get a little bit less enjoyable.
The next 3D parody is filming as we speak, in fact, from Date Movie and Epic Movie duo Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. The pair announced their intention to make a 3D spoof of James Cameron’s Avatar last year, titled The Biggest Movie of All Time 3D, which they claim is “the very first spoof movie ever in this format”.
Sorry chaps, but it looks like you’ve been pipped to the post.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas 3D is out in UK cinemas now.