Movie Marketing Madness: A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas

I have to admit that when I first saw the original Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle years ago I was extraordinarily underwhelmed. Sure there were some funny moments and it was enjoyable overall but by the time I’d gotten around to seeing it the expectations were built up so that I expected it to be an instant classic. I’m not sure what conventional wisdom currently holds as to how well it has or hasn’t held up over the intervening years but it’s obviously still seen as popular enough that it’s spawned not just one but now two sequels.

The newest installment sees the titular pair not in the pursuit of good eating but on a mission to save Christmas. A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas puts Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) accidentally being brought back together after years of growing apart, the reunion a result of some misunderstandings and comedic irregularites. They, of course, encounter all sorts of wacky situations and people on that journey, including Neil Patrick Harris (Neil Patrick Harris) who isn’t letting the fact that he died in the second movie get in the way of appearing here. The movie, as the title suggests, is being released in 3D for, as far as I can tell, no discernible reason other than the fact that someone thought it would be funny to do so.

The Posters

A series of four posters were the first one-sheets released. The first showed Harold brandishing a rifle with Santa lying just off screen and only his boots visible. The second had Kumar with a bow on his crotch and mistletoe burning around him. The third showed NPH looking smugly at the camera as he shoved a giant candy cane toward the audience. The fourth brought all three together and showed a bunch of other random stuff that’s going to be in the film.

Another series of eight – eight! – character one-sheets was released after that. That included ones featuring NPH, Kumar and Harold as well as Jesus, Santa Claus and other supporting characters. Most of them feature copy that alluded to drug usage and in some cases it was far more than just an allusion.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts off like it’s selling a standard high-end Christmas movie, with lots of shots of New York City at that time of year. But then Harold shoots Santa Claus in the face and things turn weird. We get a girl telling Kumar why she won’t date him, the guys accidentally getting a toddler high and all sorts of other hijinks, including a very painful looking homage to A Christmas Story. Harris, of course, appears and we see what’s happened to him after he met what appeared to be his demise in the last movie as well as what he’s doing with the fact that he’s come back to life.

It’s completely random and pretty funny. It’s obvious that they’re poking fun at the whole 3D thing with lots of winks to the audience and such. There’s also an obvious attempt to make it clear to the audience that the main characters haven’t lost a raunchy step since the last outing but all in all it’s pretty good. It jettisons anything resembling plot reveals after the first 45 seconds in favor of random gags but that’s alright for this first trailer.

Close to release there was a red-band trailer released that opened with Santa Claus smoking a bong before getting shot by our two protagonists. There proceeds to be shot after shot from the movie show there are lots of naked woman, lots of jokes involving drug use and lots of foul language. It’s funny enough but it is definitely positioning the movie as being a lot more extreme in the humor department than I remember the first two movies being.

Online

There’s a lot of material here on the front page of the official website.

The first option on the top content menu is to watch the “Red Band Trailer” and then there’s a link to “Bong Along,” some sort of app that I couldn’t get to load in a browser window for whatever reason. After that is “Munchies,” which takes you to Facebook and the the “Poster Creator” is also a standalone site that is exactly what it sounds like. “Mistle-Toasted” is another Facebook game that, because I don’t connect things with my Facebook account, I can’t tell you more about though I presume it’s something vaguely drug-related. The “Ecard” tool also uses Facebook to, I presume, send one of your friends there a movie-themed electronic card of some sort.

We finally move beyond Facebook with the “Videos” section, which has the one all-ages Trailer as well as two TV Spots. “Photos” then contains 11 stills from the movie that show many of the same scenes we’ve seen in the trailers.

“About” has a Synopsis as well as Cast and Filmmaker sections that give you an idea of what everyone involved has been doing for their careers as well as Production Notes to download as a PDF if you want to do some reading.

There are Posters, Wallpapers and Buddy Icons to grab in the “Downloads” section.

Likely because of the age-sensitive material that’s there you have to be logged in to Facebook in order to access the movie’s page there. The page has information on the “Munchies Truck Tour” that will bring the movie’s attitude to colleges across the country as well as the usual assortment of videos and photos along with publicity updates on the Wall, including questions from fans that have been answered by the movie’s stars.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A variety of TV commercials were created and released that hit most of the comedic high points – Claymation, a toddler getting high, NPH’s womanizing return, lots of implied drug use – in various ways. They all served their purpose of making sure people were aware that, after a six-year hiatus, the characters were returning and that they were more offensive than ever, which is the point of the entire campaign so it’s not like anything here can be argued with in terms of effectiveness.

Media and Publicity

There wasn’t a ton of publicity. Some basic pieces about the return of the franchise and such but the only one of note was a story (Los Angeles Times, 10/24/11) about Penn and this being his big return to acting after taking a bit of time off to, of all things, work at the White House. Outside of that there were various interviews with the actors and all that and some shilling by them on the talk show circuit.

Overall

It’s not bad but it’s definitely intended to show today’s audience – which is quite a bit different from the one that existed just six years ago when the last installment was released – just how extreme the humor is. So the same gags showing the baby getting messed up on drugs, the claymation sequence that’s supposed to hit all sorts of nostalgic chords and the sexual antics of Neil Patrick Harris are repeated over and over again to make the comedy here as much of a known quantity as possible.

It’s presumed that by giving the audience what is meant to be just a sample of what’s in store that they’ll be interested enough to come and get the whole lot but I suspect that what we’ve seen here, especially in the red-band trailer, is a fair representation of the movie as a whole.