A young Peter Quill and Kraglin are chatting about a holiday called Christmas. Yondu shows up and tells them he’ll have none of this Christmas nonsense. We flash forward to an adult Kraglin sharing this tale with other members of the Guardians, including Mantis and Drax. Mantis feels terrible that Yondu has ruined Christmas for Peter, and she takes it upon herself, with the assistance of Drax, to save Christmas for their Star-Lord. How will they do that? By bringing to him what they believe to be the best gift he could ever want in the form of Kevin Bacon (Don’t complain to me about spoilers as we see Kevin Bacon in the trailer!).
I was nervous about going into this holiday special only because so many of the recent Marvel Cinematic movies have been “lackluster.” Almost none of them have managed to recapture the magic felt with the movies that made up Phases 1 through 3. Now, this franchise’s writer/director and creator (James Gunn) returned by giving us something that could be tricky to pull off. So how does one make a holiday-themed movie and also have it be a comic book-themed superhero story as well? Can it be done? In this case, the answer is an undeniable YES!
Gunn used plenty of familiar ideas for this special, but he found ways to expand on them. One manner was using animation to tell the flashbacks of Peter’s youth. Not only was it enjoyable to look at, but it also served as a charming way to bring back Michael Rooker in the popular role of Yondu. From that point on, the special largely focuses on Drax and Mantis as they set out to save Christmas for Peter. What makes this portion of the movie so much fun is how these two see the world around them and the way in which people view them. After all, it might be difficult to see a talking raccoon on Earth asking for Kevin Bacon.
Interestingly enough, having Drax and Mantis walk along Hollywood Blvd made for some of the funniest moments in the special as they somehow blended perfectly in with the people dressing up as movie characters. Gunn also used a moment from this part of the movie to expand the MCU canon in a way that no one ever expected. Is it merely an Easter Egg, or is this part of a larger plan on Kevin Feige’s part? Time will tell…
As always, the cast for this special was in top form, although with Quill, we did get some additional layers from Chris Pratt. The first two movies did give us a nice range of emotions from Pratt, but here he gives us something extremely subtle and very touching. We see a hint of sadness over the loss of Gamora. Later, in another surprising canonical movie, we see a moment of almost pure joy and love in Quill’s eyes. For Pratt’s reduced screen time, his performance resonated with me even after the credits started rolling. As for Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff as Drax and Mantis, respectively, this was their moment to show off their comedic skills like never before. It’s one thing to have them act out while surrounded by familiar settings, but placing them on present-day Earth and then interacting with Kevin Bacon made for some of the most outrageously comedic and slapstick moments. If there is a downside to this, it’s that most of the movie did focus on them, leaving very little for Rocket or Nebula to contribute. One nice bit is the presence of Sean Gunn as Kraglin. His presence is always a treat. Lastly, there is Kevin Bacon. Here is an actor who has mostly made very dramatic movies but has proven that he does have a flair for comedy, and he puts that on display for everyone to see. But, of course, you can’t have Kevin Bacon appearing in a movie as himself and not have him grab a guitar and sing. However, what I feared might be a somewhat cringy moment turned out quite nice and added a wonderful spirit for some of the final moments of the special.
As with anything from Marvel Studios, the production values were top-notch. The movies that make up the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise have always been beautiful with their visual effects. They border on artistic, and when Christmas is brought to Quill, the entire set is more amazing than any Christmas scene one could imagine. Even settings on Earth have a wonderful Yuletide look to them, reinforcing the idea that this is indeed a holiday special. The special also ends with another lovely animated sequence (the same style as used in the Disney+ Marvel series What If…?), providing a bookend to the story. It’s a heartwarming moment reminding the viewers that while Ego may have been Quill’s father, Yondu was undoubtedly Quill’s daddy.
If there is any drawback, it would be the small amount of time given to Rocket and Nebula. Their highly acidic personalities would have made for some interesting comedy. Instead, we got perhaps 3 to 5 lines at the most from either of them, although Rocket does get a Christmas gift that was hilarious to see.
Despite the previously mentioned shortcomings, the existing strengths help elevate The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special to where it transcends both the superhero and holiday movie genres. It has all of the heart but none of the schmaltz found in Hallmark Holiday films and all of the spicy fun that we’ve come to expect from past Marvel Studio movies.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special receives 5 out of 5 Christmas Presents!
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Star-Lord, Drax, Rocket, Mantis, and Groot engage in some spirited shenanigans in an all-new original special created for Disney+.
THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY HOLIDAY SPECIAL premiered on the streaming service Disney+ on Friday, November 25, 2022.