*** (out of four)
Fortunately, “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas” consists of more than just Santa holding a bong. Though it has that too.
Cheerfully honest about the absurdity of its 3D and the gratuitousness of its nudity (cue the hot nuns in the shower and topless angels in heaven), the film’s funny and playful--but only for viewers who’d attach those words to a beer pong showdown with underage kids and a breakfast-assistant toy called the Wafflebot that falls in love with Kumar. I now know that I’m a viewer who goes for those things.
The story focuses on Harold’s (John Cho) desperate search for the perfect Christmas tree to impress his father-in-law (Danny Trejo), which Harold only needs because Kumar (Kal Penn), whom he hasn’t seen in two years, accidentally burns down the other one with a massive joint. The adventure that ensues has a lot more life and random awesomeness than the stale, fart-focused “Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay.” Which isn’t saying much.
Did “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” need to turn into a franchise? No way. Does Neil Patrick Harris steal the show again in “Christmas”? Hell yes. This guy couldn’t be savvier about winking at himself--with hilarious, dirty results. Writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, wisely leaving the director’s chair after “Guantanamo Bay,” still bounce between mocking stereotypes and embracing them, and the joke about Harold’s friend Todd’s (Thomas Lennon) young daughter accidentally getting high in a variety of ways wears thin fast. Yet as a stoner comedy wrapped in a feel-good holiday movie stuffed into a male fantasy, the fire still burns.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the Umpais@tribune.com. @mattpais