The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special Review: A Light, Frothy Bit Of Seasonal Silliness

It's safe to assume that no one will sit down to watch "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" expecting something deep or profound. Viewers will instead expect a brightly-lit bit of pop entertainment with silly, holiday-appropriate humor. And in that regard, they will be well met — "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" is mighty silly and mighty light. In fact, it's so light that it's a wonder it even exists. One gets the impression that writer-director James Gunn didn't really have enough to fill out an entire special, which means we're treated to multiple musical numbers and multiple montages to pad the runtime. At the same time, Gunn and his cast manage to slip in one final emotional beat that genuinely works. It's like a neat little magic trick; we're distracted by the harmless flash and wowed by the grand finale. I didn't love this, but I loved that final moment. Is that enough? Maybe. Maybe I'm just asking too much from something like this.

Unlike "Werewolf By Night," the previous seasonally appropriate Marvel Studios Special Presentations, "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" feels incomplete. On top of that, you can see the seams — the sprawling "Guardians" cast was clearly busy, which means the majority of the players only pop up for what amounts to a quick cameo. Chris Pratt's Star-Lord feels like an afterthought even though his presence is what incites the action of the special, and Rocket and Groot are relegated to hanging out in the background of frames. Instead, the special zeroes in on Dave Bautista's Drax the Destroyer and Pom Klementieff as Mantis, an unlikely but very amusing pair who set off on their own holiday misadventure.

The search for Kevin Bacon

It's the holiday season, and Star-Lord/Peter Quill is feeling down. Mantis and Drax decide to save Christmas by getting their friend a very special gift: Kevin Bacon. Thanks to Quill's enthusiastic recountings of the films of his youth, Mantis and Drax believe Kevin Bacon is an amazing hero, and not just an actor playing pretend. So they head to Earth to find Mr. Bacon. And ... that's really it. What follows is a series of amusing but mostly forgettable scenes in which Mantis and Drax wander around Hollywood like they're auditioning for "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home." Since they're not from this planet everything is strange and silly to them! Over and over again! They get drunk! They get confused! They trash everything in sight! Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Thankfully, Klementieff and Bautista are a great pair here, and I wouldn't mind seeing them team up for a more consequential adventure. Klementieff in particular gets more to do here than she's had to do in any of her previous appearances. She makes Mantis sweet, funny, and even occasionally scary when she loses her calm demeanor, usually because of something Drax has done or said. Kevin Bacon, playing himself, is fine, and clearly game to have fun here. But the concept of bringing Bacon back for Quill is never as funny as the special seems to think it is.  

Holiday background noise

Am I being a Scrooge? A Grinch? Some other Christmas-hating ghoul? I don't know. Again: I didn't go into "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" expecting something that would blow me away. I was just expecting ... something more. Anything, really. While the special ends on a genuinely sweet moment, and that moment works, it also feels like a cheat. Like Gunn and company realized they needed to give us a big emotional send-off at the last possible second. 

But before we get there we're stuck with rather predictable humor and not one but two different lengthy musical numbers that play more like time-fillers than anything else. But the mood remains light, and those seeking sweet sugary confections in the form of entertainment will probably have fun. At the very least, the special never overstays its welcome. In fact, that's part of the problem — it's so quick and airy that it leaves you wanting more. There's no sustenance here, just empty calories. This ultimately feels like something someone can throw on in the background while they decorate their Christmas tree. Happy Holidays, I guess! 

"The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" streams on Disney+ starting on November 25, 2022.