The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special doesn’t do much to push the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) forward with its borrowed 44 minutes. However, it more than delivers its own brand of Christmas cheer in a way the Guardians and director James Gunn know best.
A franchise-driven holiday special is a rare breed of programming from Marvel Studios. There are plenty of mistakes to be made by ruining a beloved team of misfits with a script inspired by every Hallmark card in existence. But The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special surprisingly unpacks the overstuffed expanse of its films, then puts it all back into a neatly personalized gift box.
James Gunn manages to add some new memorable quotes from each of its members, including Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Gamora (Karen Gillan) and Groot (Vin Diesel). The Guardians don’t see much action this time around, but what the special lacks in stakes more than makes up with well-placed punches of comedy.
As revealed in its trailer, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special sees Peter Quill/Star Lord down in the dumps sometime after Endgame and Thor: Love & Thunder. There isn’t much to catch up on since the special continues Marvel’s Phase 4 trend for standalone plots. I didn’t have big expectations of this 44-minute special, which adds some Christmas every second. Drax and Mantis hatch their own plan to cheer their overworked leader up by kidnapping Earth’s treasure: Kevin Bacon (Kevin Bacon).
“The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special—without spoilers—doubles down on the team’s bond in thoughtful ways.”
Surprisingly, this absurd narrative takes on a life of its own thanks to Gunn and writers. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special—without spoilers—doubles down on the team’s bond in thoughtful ways. Viewers find fun and suspense seeing Kevin Bacon struggle to play himself in the unpredictably strange MCU. Here, the special stays consistent with Drax and Mantis’ plot and viewers never lose a beat from the chaotic and hilarious banter they have.
In fact, fans invested in the duo are getting more than what they bargained for in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. Viewers unfortunately won’t get to see much involvement from the rest of the team. But in a plot that goes back to Star Lord, the special brings its Christmas message home through his past traumas. A few cameos here and narrative “fill-in-the-gap” realizations there, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special starts making sense in the MCU timeline. Gunn’s special works by leveraging Star Lord’s homesickness that makes viewers say “bah humbug” for him.
Marvel’s special still checks all the boxes for a Christmas special. There are some musical numbers delivered smoothly while pushing the story forward. In 44 minutes, there’s enough variety to ease the most grizzled viewers into that holiday spirit. Without spoilers, there are a few sprinkled bits of animation to illustrate flashbacks in a neat nod to holiday programming of Christmas past. These are also delivered by Kraglin (Sean Gunn) with his signature earnest charm. The special doesn’t stop bringing out the sentimental side of the MCU’s iconic scumbags. In fact, it takes 44 minutes to shine and that’s enough.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special might be one of Marvel’s funniest servings in recent memory. This sees Drax and Mantis take a trip to Earth and make us laugh harder at our own weird millennial habits. Again, without spoilers, Kevin Bacon more than makes his presence known and nails his own charm. Gunn, moving without any puppet strings, gifts viewers with thoughts that count. Literally, the story’s climax and loose ends are enough to make the most diehard Guardians fans shed a single tear. Those sentimental moments are a taste of Gunn’s ability to make a special that’s wacky as much as it’s heartfelt.
There is one post credits scene.