Year:  2022

Director:  James Gunn

Release:  November 25, 2022

Distributor: Disney+

Running time: 44 minutes

Worth: $18.00
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Chris Pratt, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Kevin Bacon, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Maria Bakalova

Gunn has proven that his sensibilities are a boon for Marvel and his motley crew of Guardians are amongst the most appealing characters in the whole shebang.

Deck the halls and pour out the eggnog as a new Christmas classic appears from a surprising source, James Gunn and his Guardians of the Galaxy.

Beginning with what is undoubtedly the best Christmas song ever, ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues and Kristy MacColl, The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special manages to balance just the right amount of sentimentality, comedy, and meta-cynicism that have become Gunn’s trademark.

Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and the remaining Guardians have bought Nowhere from The Collector and are fixing up the place after the destruction that Thanos wrought.

According to the intergalactic calendar, it’s coming up to Christmas time on Earth. Kragin (Sean Gunn) relates the story of how much Peter loved Christmas until Yondu (Michael Rooker) ruined it for him. The story is told via animation and it’s great to hear Rooker’s voice.

Peter has been subdued of late because he’s missing Gamora, and his dad turned out to be a dud, plus the whole Thanos thing (if you’re not up to date with the MCU, chances are you won’t be watching). Hoping to cheer Peter up, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) convinces Drax (Dave Bautista) that they have to celebrate Christmas and find Peter a special present, and what could be more special than the Earth hero Kevin Bacon?

Peter is partly defined by his early memories of Earth as a child. Eighties superstar David Hasselhoff appeared in a Guardians film. This time Kevin Bacon – the man who saved a whole town because of his dancing (Footloose) and fought off the serial killer Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) – is the one Peter has been telling stories about.

Mantis and Drax take off to Earth to track down Kevin Bacon. As can be expected, their adventures before even reaching Kevin Bacon, are hilarious because despite living with a human, they have zero understanding of how Earth works. They end up in Hollywood, mistake cosplayers for superheroes and real robots, and get pass-out drunk at a bar with the money they made taking celebrity selfies. For all that, they have no idea where to find Kevin Bacon amongst the possible “hundreds of thousands” of people on Earth. A simple map to the stars fixes that dilemma, and they arrive at Bacon’s house.

Kevin Bacon does a wonderful job of playing himself, an actor who has to then play an actor (who doesn’t suck) who is him but who isn’t him (following along?) and proves his skill for goofy parts. Although Groot (Vin Diesel), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and newcomer Cosmo the Spacedog (Maria Bakalova) are all involved, The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special really belongs to Pom Klementieff and Dave Bautista as Mantis and Drax respectively. The characters have built up an excellent camaraderie and spark off each other delightfully. Mantis is learning to be more forceful and Drax, well, he’s Drax.

Gunn is having so much fun with the Holiday Special, dropping in little easter eggs (this may be the only time you’ll see any reference to The Eternals) and curating a Christmas playlist that is all killer no filler. He’s also revealing that he’s a big old softy. As much as the special skates by on its absurdity (including to some extent the absurdity of Christmas itself as presented by the alien understanding represented by the band [Old 97’s] completely misrepresenting the holiday but also kind of getting it right) and the charm of Kevin Bacon, Earth Hero, it also has a special emotional payoff as the Guardians experience the tradition for the first time. Even the dour Nebula is touched. There’s an extra reveal which will not be spoiled here that tugs on the heartstrings.

Clocking in at under fifty-minutes The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special is probably the best present the MCU could give fans in 2022. Gunn has proven that his sensibilities are a boon for Marvel and his motley crew of Guardians are amongst the most appealing characters in the whole shebang. The bells will be ringing out on Christmas day.