It’s silly and inconsequential, but The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special still manages to sneak in Gunn’s trademark blend of humour and legitimate sentiment.
This review of The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is spoiler-free.
It doesn’t seem like long since the last Marvel “special presentation”, but I could get used to them. A universe as malleable as this one suits one-off seasonal outings. Werewolf By Night was a great little Halloween release while also doing some world-building legwork that’ll come to fruition later. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is very different, but a nonetheless valuable Christmas release that works in the exact manner that all James Gunn’s stuff tends to – in spite of itself.
As if it wasn’t obvious from the title, this is an explicit riff on the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, with animated inserts and a knowing sense of badness that is part of the joke. It’s deliberately not very good in some respects, which ends up making it surprisingly good when everything comes together. There are two musical numbers, an abundant amount of silliness, and a refreshing sense of inconsequentiality, even if there’s a decent amount to pick up on in the details.
The setup runs thusly. The Guardians are currently living on Knowhere, trying to spruce the place up while Quill (Chris Pratt) sulks over the loss of Gamora. Kraglin (Sean Gunn), now wearing the control fin for Yondu’s Yaka arrow, realizes it’s around Christmas time on Earth, a holiday that is important to Quill but that Yondu apparently ruined for him as a kid. To ensure the date is special this time around, Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) decide to give Quill the best gift imaginable – Earth’s mightiest hero, Kevin Bacon.
What this involves is a ridiculous trip to Earth, where Drax and Mantis get drunk, party, and then attempt to kidnap Bacon from his plush home in the Hollywood hills. Since the wacky relationship between these two was what people especially enjoyed in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, this whole special burns it for fuel. It does, admittedly, sideline the rest of the team – including a swole-looking Groot – but not so much that they don’t get their own individual moments. And besides, Mantis needed the development anyway.
And it is Mantis, I think, who really benefits here, with Klementieff getting a lot more to do with the character than she did in Vol. 2. Bacon’s presence is welcome but ultimately feels like a waste since Gunn doesn’t satirize his public perception with any real commitment. The plot does, however, amount to a climax that I personally found legitimately moving, with Gunn once again walking that fine line between silly knockabout comedy and genuine sentiment. He might be the best in the industry at having his cake and eating it too.
Ultimately, what is there to say? The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is an unashamedly ludicrous little extravagance to inject a bit of Christmas spirit into late November, and while plenty of people who take themselves and the MCU much too seriously will hate it, I can’t see anything here that’s worth getting upset about.