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Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’ can’t quite capture seasonal magic

Graphic by Sarah Irwin

Lively. Cheerful. Heartwarming.

These adjectives are often used to describe Christmas movies, but unfortunately, don’t apply to Marvel’s “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.”

What separates this latest offering from the rest of superhero fare is that it comes with a much-needed side of Bacon. Kevin Bacon, that is. Playing a fictionalized version of himself, Bacon serves up a mix of movie-star charisma and everyman relatability when forcibly faced with the alien and unfamiliar.

Pom Klementieff’s exuberant performance of Mantis and her zest for life serves as this otherwise dead-fish special’s defibrillator. With the exception of Bacon and Klementieff, every actor seems to sleepwalk through the 45-minute seasonal superhero offering. The biggest offender is Chris Pratt, who ranges from looking bored to boredly irate.

Maybe he just doesn’t care anymore. Maybe he doesn’t know how to play an action star without any action. Whatever the case may be, Star-Lord and the other Guardians are stiff, phoned-in versions of themselves.

Even in their brief appearance at the beginning of “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the Guardians were characters with depth rather than action figures going through the motions.

Writer and director James Gunn wrote the script in three days and it shows. Gunn is usually able to weave genuine emotional moments in with the wacky and out-there elements. 

Unfortunately, it’s just not there this time.

As a longtime fan, this hurt to watch. “Guardians of the Galaxy” was the second Marvel movie I saw in theaters, and I absolutely loved it. Despite not liking “Guardians Vol. 2” quite as much as the first, I still enjoyed watching it. This time around, though, what was once experimental and fun became flat and dull.

It’s pretty clear that this special was thrown together as a filler until “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” comes out next year. Hopefully, the low effort here means everyone is giving their all for the grand finale.

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