Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special Review

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special will debut on Disney+ on November 25, 2022. Below is a spoiler-free review.

Leave it to James Gunn to close out Phase 4 of the MCU with what could be a new Christmas classic. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special not only shines a very welcome light on Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, but also gives us some unabashed Christmas cheer, some earworms and, of course, some Guardians -type laughs. After this and the wonderfully scary Werewolf by Night earlier this year, it looks like Marvel is on to something with seasonal specials.

The Holiday Special opens like most Christmas classics: with animation. A quick, charmingly drawn sketch gives us a sad tale of how Yondu (Michael Rooker) ruined Christmas for Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Kraglin (Sean Gunn), and when Kraglin recounts the story to the gang, it’s to Mantis. pulls heartbeat This is where the hilariously absurd premise unravels: what if Mantis and Drax (Dave Bautista) saved Christmas by giving Peter the best gift… his favorite Earth hero, Kevin Bacon?

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Peter and the rest of the Guardians don’t get a ton of screen time in this refreshingly brisk 43-minute special, but the time Pratt does get packs an emotional punch. But the focus is on Mantis, Drax and, hilariously, Kevin Bacon, as the former two go on a thoroughly entertaining and hilarious journey through Hollywood at Christmas to find Peter’s present. Mantis and Drax’s banter together never gets tiresome — seriously, Mantis is “Drax!” I laughed every time it was shouted. in anger Bacon, playing himself, throws pretense out the window. He totally buys into this silly concept while acting as a bystander where necessary. Bacon’s intervention allows a sweet message about the power of stories to creep its way.

But the holiday special is Mantis’ time to shine, and Clementiff rises to the occasion. Just as Gunn took a formerly despicable character in Peacemaker and turned him into a believable sympathetic protagonist in his HBO Max series, he takes Mantis — previously a mostly background character — and gives her more complexity and layers with the help of Klementieff’s endearing performance. As mentioned earlier, she and Bautista are a dream comedic duo, but Klementieff also does an amazing job as Mantis acts as the special anchor for its emotional moments, of which there are many.

It certainly doesn’t skimp on the emotions, but, thanks to Gunn’s ability to punctuate heavy moments with humor without overpowering them, it’s never overdone. It’s full of scenes that elicit both laughs and potential tears, and it’s delightfully cynical. That lack of cynicism extends to a full embrace of the Christmas spirit. From its concise animation scenes to its beautiful Christmas lights display to its musical moments, it doesn’t hide its inspiration from past holiday classics, and it’s all the better for it. And by the way, those musical moments also deliver; It opens with an endlessly catchy and funny number.

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As for the MCU of it all, don’t expect a lot of multiverse shenanigans. But Guardians Holiday Special does Something the MCU has struggled with in other parts of Phase 4, managing to weave in a big reveal without a shoestring. Surprisingly, it adds to this individual story rather than detracts from it; It’s hard to talk too much about spoilers, but you’ll know it when you see it.

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