Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special debuts on Disney+ on November 25, 2022. Below is a spoiler-free review.
Leave it to James Gunn to close out MCU Phase 4 with what could be a new Christmas classic. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special not only sheds a welcome light on Praying Mantis Pom Klementieff, it gives us a far-fetched Christmas cheer, a couple earworms, and of course some laughs Guardians-style. After this and the fantastic Werewolf by Night earlier this year, it looks like Marvel is on to something with seasonal specials.
The holiday special opens as many Christmas classics do: with animation. A quick, charmingly drawn plot gives us a sad story about how Yondu (Michael Rooker) ruined Christmas for Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Kraglin (Sean Gunn), and as Kraglin tells the story to the gang, he pulls right on Mantis’ heartstrings. It’s here that the oddly humorous premise reveals itself: What if Mantis and Drax (Dave Bautista) saved Peter’s Christmas by giving him the best gift ever… his favorite Earth hero, Kevin Bacon?
Peter and the rest of the Watchmen don’t get a whole lot of screen time in this refreshing 43-minute special, though the time when Pratt gets emotional bundles up. But the focus is squarely on Mantis, Drax and, hilariously, Kevin Bacon, as the former two take a hilarious and totally hilarious trip through Hollywood at Christmas time to find Peter’s gift. Mantis and Drax’s comedy together never gets tired — seriously, I laughed every time the praying mantis yelled “DRAX!” in exasperation. Playing Bacon himself, he throws the pretense out the window. He totally buys into this goofy concept while acting as a crowd leader when necessary. Bacon’s post also allows for a sweet message about the power of stories to get her way.
But the holiday special is truly Mantis’ time to shine, and Klementieff rises to the occasion. Just as Gunn took a previously despicable character in Peacemaker and made him a believably sympathetic hero in his own HBO Max series, he’s taking Mantis – previously mostly just a background character – and giving her more complexity and layers with the help of Klementieff’s endearing performance. As mentioned earlier, she and Bautista are a dream comedy duo, but Klementieff also does an amazing job as Mantis serving as the private anchor for his emotional moments, of which there are many.
It certainly doesn’t skimp on sentiment, but thanks to Gunn’s ability to pepper heavy moments with humor without undercutting it, it never gets too saccharine. It’s full of scenes that elicit potential laughs and tears, and it’s delightfully unobtrusive. This lack of irony extends to her full embrace of the spirit of Christmas. From her animated short scenes to her beautiful Christmas lights show to her musical moments, she makes no secret of her inspiration from holiday classics past, and it’s all the better for her. Incidentally, those musical moments also deliver; It starts with an endlessly catchy and funny number.
For the MCU of all that, don’t expect a big multiverse shenanigans. But the special guardians holiday Do They manage to weave together a big reveal without feeling overwhelmed, something the MCU has struggled with in other parts of Phase 4. Surprisingly, it adds to this single story rather than detracts from it; It’s hard to talk too much about spoilers, but you’ll know it when you see it.
Every confirmed mutant in the MCU (so far)