There was always a chance that James Gunn’s The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special could have, purposefully, emulated the Star Wars Holiday Special. You know, just two hours of Groot saying “I am Groot,” with no subtitles so we, the viewer, have absolutely no idea what’s being said. Then it shows on Disney+ for one day, and if you ever want to see it again you have to get it through some sort of underground market. (It’s weird to think back that, for years, the only way to see the Star Wars Holiday Special was tracking down someone named “Big Ed,” or whatever, at some sci-fi convention and forking over $20 for a poor-quality VHS tape. At least now we can watch it, in poor quality, on YouTube. Speaking of, I truly would love to see a pristine version of this someday and I don’t know why this hasn’t happened yet.)
But, alas, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, set to debut on Disney+ on November 25th, is actually coherent. After Werewolf By Night, this becomes the second Marvel Special Presentation, which is supposed to signify that it’s not quite a full movie or show, and instead is a one-off type thing. And here, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special runs a grand total of 41 minutes, including credits. (And, yes, there is a post-credit scene.) All of the Guardians, sans Gamora, are present, though the story focuses mainly on Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff).
You see, Peter (Chris Pratt) is forlorn because it’s Christmastime and, living in space, he will go another year without celebrating. Drax and Mantis decide to lift Peter’s spirits by attempting to bring Peter the one thing from Earth that he loves more than anything else, actor Kevin Bacon. Though it’s unclear if Peter realizes Kevin Bacon is an actor, and not actually Ren McCormack who teaches a small rural town that dancing isn’t evil.* Though, Drax and Mantis for sure do not realize Kevin Bacon is an actor and just assume he is the leader of Earth.
*There always seems to be a misconception about the plot of the movie Footloose. In the end, Ren doesn’t get any laws changed in Bomont. He does succeed in throwing a high school dance, but it takes place at a grain mill outside the city limits. The only thing Ren really accomplishes is that Reverend Shaw Moore doesn’t necessarily change his mind, but just kind of gives up, because what else can he do, really? I’ve always thought the scene in which Shaw prays for everyone going to the dance was a fairly passive-aggressive way of saying he still thinks this is lousy. Anyway, the moral of Footloose seems to be, if you don’t like a local law, just leave town and do it there.
A good portion of The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is just Drax and Mantis wandering the streets of Los Angeles searching for Kevin Bacon, which gives the whole thing a fun, hang-out vibe. When the two wander upon Hollywood Boulevard, there’s a great scene of Drax and Mantis confusing all the people in costumes for the real deal. Mantis is sad that Captain America ran away from her and Drax apparently has a major beef with Cy-Kill from the GoBots and a street actor pays the price for Cy-Kill’s transgressions. (I do hope this marks the beginning of some sort of GoBot renaissance. Bring back the toy line where a motorcycle, a fighter jet, and a space shuttle were all the same size.) Anyway, as you might expect, Kevin Bacon isn’t too keen on leaving Earth with two space aliens and hijinks ensue.
All in all, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is nice. It’s not really trying to be much more than any other typical holiday special. In a weird way, I found this pleasant in the fact it’s just these characters hanging out and there’s no threat whatsoever. Marvel does a pretty good job of setting up its characters, especially Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy personalities, and my least favorite part of all of these movies is when the character interactions take a backseat to the CGI cartoon fight scenes. Here, we only get character interactions and it’s nice.
(Also, as a side note The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special starts with “Fairytale of New York“ by The Pogues. A Ted Lasso episode last season also features this particular holiday song, which is quite a comeback after the last few years of getting banned or censored on the radio. I do wonder what the reaction is when people not familiar with this song seek out the full version and hear the more, um, let’s say, questionable or problematic lyrics.)
The ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special’ will stream via Disney+ on November 25th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.