TV Show ReviewsJosh Reviews The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Josh Reviews The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Marvel’s second one-shot “special presentation” for Disney+ (following Werewolf by Night) is the deliciously enjoyably The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.  Written and directed by James Gunn, and filmed while they were making Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3, this 40-ish-minutes special picks up some time after the events of Avengers: Endgame.  The Guardians have taken up residence in Knowhere (the Celestial head seen in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film), but Peter is depressed at the absence of Gamora.  Mantis and Drax set out to cheer him up, and because Kraglin has told them that it’s Christmas-time back on Earth, they decide to get him a Christmas present.  And because Peter is always talking about Kevin Bacon, they decide to go to Earth and get him the real Kevin Bacon.

Let me say upfront that in general I am not a fan of Christmas specials.  Look, not everyone on planet Earth celebrates Christmas, OK?  I don’t need to see all of my secular fictional heroes celebrating Christmas.  But I totally understand what James Gunn is trying too do here, channeling the types of Christmas Specials that were all over the place in the eighties (such as, most infamously, the Star Wars Holiday Special).  And while I rolled my eyes a bit at calling this a Holiday Special when it is 100% all about Christmas and not any other holiday, I very quickly found myself quite taken in by this sweet, silly story.

It’s a testament to how much I love these characters, played by these wonderful actors, particularly when written and directed by James Gunn.  The whole snafu that resulted in Mr. Gunn’s brief expulsion from Marvel (which led to his writing and directing the wonderful second Suicide Squad film for DC/Warner Brothers and then the even more wonderful Peacemaker TV show) delayed the making of a third Guardians movie by years.  And while the end of Endgame got me excited to see the adventures of the Asguardians of the Galaxy, the Guardians wound up getting cut almost completely out of Thor: Love and Thunder.  So I’ve missed these characters!!!  I thought it was pure joy to get to see them all again in this special.

It’s interesting to see the new status quo for the Guardians.  It’s cool to see them back in Knowhere, and I love that Kraglin (Sean Gunn) is 100% part of the crew now.  I also loved the introduction of talking-dog Cosmo into the mix.  We’d glimpsed Cosmo in the previous Guardians films, but here she’s far more front-and-center.  OK, she’s basically Dug from Up, but when she’s this much fun I’m not complaining.  Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) is great as Cosmo’s voice.

All of the main Guardians get some nice bits: Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Vin Diesel as Groot, and Karen Gillan as Nebula.  But this show really belongs to Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista).  It’s fun to see those two dum-dums go off on an adventure and wreak havoc on Earth.  Drax’s brash stupidity can get a bit much at times (I liked the character best when his literalness was more laced with the sadness of his backstory in the first Guardians film), but Mr. Gunn keeps things just on the right side before tipping into annoyingness.

I loved that they were able to get Michael Rooker back as Yondu for the story, even though the character died in The Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2.  Mr. Rooker’s Yondu is such an important part of these Guardians stories!  I loved the genius idea to bring him back via an animated flashback sequence.  That worked perfectly.

Also genius: bringing the real Kevin Bacon into the story.  Mr. Bacon was terrific in this, 100% committed to this sweet and goofy story.  I loved every second Mr. Bacon was on-screen.

I was interested to get the revelation about Mantis and Peter.  That felt a little off from what I’d understood from The Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, in which it sort of seemed to me like Ego and Mantis were an item.  But I can roll with it.  It built to a sweet moment at the end of this special, and I suspect this will play into the story of the upcoming vol. 3 film.

Other comments:

  • It was interesting to see how easily Drax and Mantis were able to get back to Earth.  It’s curious that Peter has, this far, not shown any interest in returning to Earth himself.  I wonder if that will change in vol. 3?
  • I loved the new ship, the Bowie.  (But what happened to Peter’s old ship, the Milano?)
  • I loved the music by the band The Old 97’s.  Their Christmas song early in the special is very funny (and very catchy!!).
  • I must confess, I didn’t love the new chunkier look for Groot.  It felt “off” to me.  I think the problem is that it looked to me very much like just a man in a suit, which felt just a tad too cheesy to me.  With all previous CGI versions of Groot, I’ve completely believed in the reality of the character, but that wasn’t quite the case for me here.  I hope in the vol. 3 film that Groot looks better.  (I’ve read online that this Groot was 100% CGI, which I find hard to believe.  If that’s the case, did they just not quite have the budget to pull this character off convincingly for TV?  Rocket looks perfect, so I can’t understand it.  Maybe I just don’t like this new design…)
  • I loved hearing Kevin Bacon’s real-life wife Kyra Sedgwick’s voice on the phone at one point; that was a nice touch.
  • I loved seeing Kraglin wearing Yondu’s fin!
  • I loved seeing a sign for a show by The Eternals Kingo at one point!!  What a great little Easter egg.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special was a pleasingly fun, silly and sweet special.  It makes me even more excited for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 film!!!

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