After learning about the Earth vacation, “Christmas,” Guardians of the Galaxy mainstays Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) travel to Earth to recruit/kidnap Peter Quill’s favorite movie star (Chris Pratt), Kevin Bacon (Kevin Bacon), as a gift they hope will cheer up their crummy team leader.
Whether Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is the final Phase 4 shot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe through our arcs, there couldn’t be a more apt summary of this wild, uneven, eccentric, crazy, much-maligned, and at times creatively hazy and uplifting series. oddly complacent. movies and TV shows. To end with a 42-minute blunder, a substanceless soufflé (a gooflé, perhaps) that somehow manages to be all of those things feels good.
When it was announced that James Gunn wasn’t just working on the third and final Guardians of the Galaxy film (due next summer), but also a Christmas special featuring the characters he transformed from ragged ragamuffins into the naughty center of the MCU, he’s got tongues wagging and minds boiling. What would that be? Guardians 2.5, but with a little Christmas riff on the soundtrack? A variety show with the Guardians at its center? Could the title be a nod to the most infamous TV show of all – the one from 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special – be a clue to Gunn’s intentions to do something a little deliberately, well, shit?
In the end, it’s a bit of all three. The are nods to this Holiday Special, including some animated interludes (Boba Fett was of course introduced to this show via cartoon), while some musical numbers briefly threaten to make it seem like we’ve fallen by chance on Hootenanny de Jools. Or Grootenanny, if you will.
Guardians 2.5, however, is mostly where Gunn — again writing and directing — ends up. Set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, he moves the Guardians to this giant floating space skull, Knowhere, and quickly sets his plot in motion. After learning from Sean Gunn’s Kraglin what Christmas means to Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista) set out to help mend their leader’s broken heart (all of it takes place after Gamora dies, lest we forget, and Pratt’s Quill is still in sad bag mode; something he can hopefully get out of by time Flight. 3 rolls) giving him a Christmas he won’t forget. Which involves going to Earth to kidnap Earth’s Mightiest Hero, Kevin Bacon.
So frothy and fun, and so clearly not meant to be taken seriously.
But because they’re dumb and only have a 12% plan, things quickly go awry. Can Drax and Mantis save the day, bring Kevin Bacon back to Knowhere, and remind Peter Quill of the magic of Christmas? The result, of course, is never in doubt. So it’s really about enjoying the ride. And there’s a lot to enjoy here, like Drax and Mantis – whose odd chemistry was one of the most enjoyable aspects of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – making his way around Los Angeles and getting in trouble with the law. Gunn can write these characters in his sleep, and Bautista knows Drax’s comically cartoonish outlines inside and out, of course, but it’s Pom Klementieff, still a fairly new addition to the Guardian gang, who s really thrives here, leaning into Mantis. well-meaning weirdness while giving delightfully dotted line readings and adding some depth to a character that can all too easily become comic relief.
Don’t get me wrong, as lovely as all of this is, this isn’t an entry-level MCU effort. And so it goes – at this point, Gunn, Kevin Feige and co. have earned the right to let loose once in a while with total weirdness like this. But there will be, and that may even include hardened MCU fans, for whom this might be an indulgence too far, and for whom this might look like the most expensive home video ever shot (the production values here are amazing – entire films have been shot on less impressive sets than the Knowhere soundstage). The whole thing is incredibly light and fairly inconsequential (with the possible exception of a character reveal, it feels like you could skip that and go straight into Flight. 3 and don’t miss a beat), while the Kevin Bacon scenes look underwhelming. The EE commercials riffed on his career and personality with a more comedic spark than here.
But it’s also so frothy and fun, and so clearly not meant to be taken seriously. It is what it is: a bunch of assholes, learning, laughing and singing about Christmas. If that’s not your bag, then I’m Groot. And we mean it.
The odd line on Mrs Claus and the side posts, maybe it lacks the acerbic edge of the Gunn’s Guardians movies to this day, and there will be some for whom this is all just too silly, but even hearts the more hardened couldn’t fail to be softened a bit by Drax beating the living shit out of a man dressed as a robot. Merry fucking Christmas.