The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, 2022.
Directed by James Gunn.
Starring Chris Pratt, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Kevin Bacon, Michael Rooker and Vin Diesel.
Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is missing Christmas while in outer space, so his teammates Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) try to cheer him up with the ultimate present: Peter’s beloved ’80s movie star Kevin Bacon.
One of two parting gifts before James Gunn heads to DC in an attempt to infuse their gloomy output with the same kind of magic that has made Peter Quill and Co. the beating heart of the MCU, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special acts as a pre-cursor to next summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Does that make this festive folly essential viewing? Well, barring a heart-warming exchange between two key characters which wraps the slight story in a neat little Christmas bow, or the fact that Groot is in the hench stage of his life-cycle, this is more disposable than anything the MCU has offered up so far.
If you were hoping for more of the GOTG following their single-line reading cameos from Thor: Love and Thunder then you’ll be disappointed. Essentially a two-hander adventure for Dave Bautista’s Drax and Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, who journey to earth in an attempt to kidnap Kevin Bacon as a Christmas present for Chris Pratt’s Gamora-grieving Star-Lord, the entire endeavour feels like a big-budget SNL skit, or that episode where Friends went to London, which means that the comedy is scattershot, but when it lands you’ll be chuckling as much as Drax does about the destruction of a Christmas tree.
If you were ever going to attempt to do something like this and have it work then Gunn’s Guardians really are the perfect characters with which to tell a heartfelt Christmas story. Volumes 1 and 2 of their MCU entries have been peppered with some of the series most affecting moments. Think Quill’s mother from Guardians of the Galaxy, or Yondu’s funeral and Rocket’s tears from the follow-up. Over the course of two films, above the gags and garishness, it has been the relationships between the crew of The Milano that have left a more indelible mark than most of the other 28 entries.
What that means is that we immediately have our George Bailey in Pratt’s downtrodden hero, our Ebenezer Scrooge in Karen Gillan’s delightfully straight-talking Nebula – “We don’t have time for trivialities like Christmas” – and our Steve Martin and John Candy in the form of intergalactic road-trip duo Drax and Mantis.
As the latter pairing are the prize in this MCU Christmas-cracker, they get afforded most of the laughs. Their arrival outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is particularly enjoyable, as they encounter some copyright infringing familiar faces, which results in Drax hilariously beating up a GoBot. Then following a drunken night out they abduct Keven Bacon, and though it can’t help but feel a little bit like an extension of a the actors long-running mobile-phone endorsement, he sends himself up with such enthusiasm that it immediately matches the tone of his new intergalactic friends. His exchanges with Bautista’s always affable Drax provide the biggest belly-laughs, with a Flashdance conversation prompting him to ask Bacon “What was it like when you had to save a small town by dancing like an idiot?”
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is a marked improvement on the last high profile space based seasonal spin-off we were subjected to, and while it feels like one of those gifts you got as a kid that sparkles all shiny and new before being discarded to the pile of forgotten toys, your love for these characters and the world that Gunn has created can’t help but give you the festive feels for forty minutes.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter