The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become increasingly flexible throughout Phase 4, changing the shades of the bright and colorful Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to heavy fanservice Spider-Man: No Way Home all the way to the more complex Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Closing out the period alongside the latest movie is the latest on Disney+, the Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special — an enjoyable and consistently funny short that’s quietly one of the sweetest entries in the modern MCU.
the Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special it’s a light and silly affair, focusing primarily on Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista). After learning from Kraglin (Sean Gunn) about how Yondu (Michael Rooker) had previously criticized any concept of Christmas on his ship, the duo decide to give Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) the best Christmas of his life. For that, they returned to Earth and landed in Los Angeles, in search of Quill’s favorite actor, Kevin Bacon. Bacon plays himself in the film, a largely down-to-earth and quickly overwhelmed star whose initial reaction to the pairing is annoyance before switching to a batch more panic when he realizes that the couple aren’t just two overzealous fans.
The special is a fun little slice of the Guardians’ largely wacky approach to superheroes, with the spotlight mostly on Mantis. Driven by a desire to help Quill after discreetly hinting at the full extent of her connection to Star-Lord, Klementieff makes the most of playing in the special. While she and Bautista have fun with their ongoing dynamic from the team’s previous film, Bautista is very much there as (effective) comic relief. It’s Klementieff who gets the special’s most impressive pace of action, the biggest laughs, and ultimately the sweetest moments. The two still share the same chemistry they had in guardians of the galaxy vol. twobut with Mantis showing a more childish and silly side to contrast Drax’s completely serious comedy.
The rest of the Guardians have funny moments throughout (particularly Karen Gillan’s no-nonsense Nebula) while staying largely out of the spotlight, quietly introducing the audience to their new ally Cosmo, (Maria Bakalova), pairing the dog. telepathic Russian with Rocket (Bradley Cooper) for some solid laughs. There’s even a fun salute to the animated canon of Christmas specials, with Rooker returning as Yondu performing in a fun set of animated bumpers.
The real MVP of the special is Bacon, who plays himself with a fun, self-aware sense of comedy. He is quick to make fun of himself and his experience as an actor and switches between terrified and joyful in a flash. It all builds into a somewhat predictable but cute moment, which works largely thanks to the great commitment the cast brings to the special. There’s a genuine sense of fun and joy throughout the special, beginning with Old 97’s appearance as an alien band trying to learn Christmas music and playing throughout the special.
Overall, it’s a somewhat mild entry into the MCU while also serving as a fitting foil to the more emotionally complex and harrowing. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. There’s a goofy sense of confidence throughout the Holiday Special, throwing Drax and Mantis into a bar, letting them take pictures in front of the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and generally bringing holiday-flavored mayhem to Los Angeles. That it works largely rests with the cast and their enthusiastic acceptance of the goofy characters they’re playing largely for laughs, meaning the moments that need to land with emotional weight succeed. the Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special It’s a great treat for fans of the franchise and the MCU in general, and it’s well worth watching before the upcoming third (and likely last) team-up movie.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special debuts on Disney+ on November 25.