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“Jumping the Shark” = “Going Harold & Kumar”

by on August 15, 2011

First coined when the popular TV series Happy Days had Fonzie literally jump over a shark near the beach on jet water skis, the term “Jump the Shark” denotes that a series has ran out of ideas. Yet, in order to milk every ounce of popularity, the series will try anything and everything in order to continue. The film franchise “Harold & Kumar” with John Cho and Kal Penn, which had gained a cult following with its first movie, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, appears to be more than just “jumping the shark” with its third installment, the upcoming A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas.

After the absolutely ridiculous Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, which was agreed by many critics and fans to be worse than White Castle, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema decided to go ahead and put the duo in a Christmas movie, a giant red flag for an installment in any series (see Star Wars Christmas Special).

In the first part of the trailer, Harold and Kumar shoot Santa down from his sleigh with a shotgun. That is already, without the brand of Harold and Kumar, a nonsensical idea that shouldn’t go beyond the realm of a short on YouTube. That moment might seem like the inciting incident for the story, but, given the heavy stoner themes throughout, it might just be a bad “trip” that Harold and Kumar are on. The intended lack of clarity here that questions whether the duo has to follow the stock Hollywood model by saving Christmas or just get really high and have to deal with the consequences quickly brings the movie under further suspicion. Marketing companies often resort to this technique of promoting a totally different movie altogether if they don’t believe the actual movie is appealing to a target demographic.

In other parts of the trailer, Neil Patrick Harris, who was killed in Escape from Guantanamo Bay, is somehow back in real life and subverting his real life persona, claiming he’s not gay. There’s even a part where Harold and Kumar are “claymated”. Even worse and incredibly ironic is a part where the words “jumped the shark” are actually uttered.

The story that connects all these moments together undoubtedly has to be so disjointed that the chances of the movie being any good, even as a stoner-buddy-road comedy, are more unlikely than George Lucas completely redeeming himself with “old guard” Star Wars fans. This whole apparent fiasco is just a testament to how studios, networks, and production companies focus on producing a product based on marketing rather than making a product that is legitimately good, then figuring a way to market it. The “Harold & Kumar” franchise has a built-in audience that knows what to expect, and with a the release of a Christmas-themed movie during Christmas, it’s simple dollars and sense as to why this movie was made.

The only consolation from the release of A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, at this point, is if Paul Scheer does an episode of How Did This Get Made? on it. However, if studio executives admit the apparent sham they’re perpetuating, that would be the purest instance of “going Harold & Kumar.”

Jake Kroeger writes on comedy at The Comedy Bureau and Laughspin. Follow him on Twitter at @mfjakekroeger.