The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special


‘…this kind of self-indulgence might please hard-core fans, but it’s fairly hard-going for the increasingly casual, tuned-out viewer…’

It’s Christmas! ! Yes, now that the day itself is finally upon us, let’s get unwrapping the festive cinematic treasures left under the tree for 2022! What’s that? It’s still a month away and half the planet is not even halfway through navigating the opening rounds of the dullest world cup on record? Never mind, Marvel are here to help us put the nil-nils aside with the latest entry in, checks notes, Phase IV of the MCU. This allows fanboys to get out their family trees to make seven hour YouTube videos about their beloved characters, and forcing the rest of us to feign polite interest in a shonky written-by-committee universe that seems to be falling apart before our eyes. I’m pretty sure that Blade was announced as part of the current phase back in 2019, but that never happened, so I think what we can confidently say of Marvel’s plans is that, as usual, they’re making all this up as they go along.

So ticking some corporate box for fresh streaming content, James Gunn’s slight return features the characters from Guardians of the Galaxy, who seem to have been never off our screens in various franchises (Thor, Avengers), but are now seen in the context of a lame television spectacular about Christmas. The inspiration, if that’s the right word, is the notorious Star Wars Christmas Special from 1978, a tacky cash-in that George Lucas subsequently disowned, and which features all manner of bland-to-excruciating padding from bands like Jefferson Starship to a celebrated cameo from Bea Arthur from the Golden Girls. So we should bear in mind that the GoG Holiday Special is meant to be funny, although it’s goal seems to be little more than bait-and-switching the audience and filling 39 minutes with off-brand content you really didn’t ask for or want.

‘I don’t know what Christmas is but Christmas time is here,’ is the opening musical salvo from a band called, checks notes, The Old 97’s; they also contribute the closing song Here It is, It’s Christmastime too. There’s a blast of the Pogues singing Fairytale of New York over the opening credits, and a solitary laugh due to an ‘introducing Kevin Bacon’ credit, and then we dive into a deeply inessential story. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, largely posted missing) is sad for some reason so his less expensive fellow Guardians Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) come to Earth to kidnap the actor Kevin Bacon to cheer him up and discover the true meaning for Christmas. That’s your lot for story. The End.

Gunn has always fancied himself as some kind of black-comedy maverick, but the GoG Holiday Special plays it fairly safe in terms of content, with little expensive CGI so bare-bones cameos from Groot (Vin Diesel) and Starfox (Bradley Cooper) and Peter Quill has one solitary last-turkey-in-the shop scene before the climax. Drax and Mantis visit Hollywood Boulevard and get their picture taken with Marvel fans, get miroculously drunk and then assault various police officers who are presumably just doing their job; that’s black comedy in 2022, I guess. And eventually we get to Kevin Bacon, who seems to play himself even more often than Nicolas Cage, but oddly seems to have little appetite for sending himself up here; with decades of adverts for phone companies under his belt, playing himself should be Bacon’s signature role, but for some reason, Bacon doesn’t bring much sizzle here. Streamers need constant content, but the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is a lump of coal where a glittery gift would have been more seasonal; this kind of self-indulgence might please hard-core fans, but it’s fairly hard-going for the increasingly casual, tuned-out viewer. Anyway, carping aside, Merry Christmas everyone!


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  1. I’ve been very critical of Marvel for their Phase 4 marketing decisions with stand-alone streaming series that don’t tie more into a team-up narrative, but I am all in on stand-alone holiday specials they wish to put out, including this one. Admittedly not for the casual fan, I thought this was a nice holiday greeting card to MCU worshipers like myself. Bring on more slop!

    • I hear you, and never let it be said that I’m not up for a bit of festive fun. Perhaps I’m opening presents that are made for someone else because the Guardians of the Galaxy elicit a groan from me every time I see their blue and purple faces; they do my scone in. Happy to hear that you got what you wanted here, an imaginary Old 97’s Christmas album is your reward, since I’m re-gifting in the true spirit of Xmas…

  2. What sort of galaxy do we live in where the Star Wars Holiday Special is a source of inspiration? Unless you can assure me there’s an equivalent scene to the ‘whip whip stir’ water torture, or when Chewie’s father seems to get horny watching a music video, there’s nothing for me here!

    • It would seem impossible to desecrate our memories of such a notoriously bad show, but somehow Gunn has managed it. You’ll be lining for Lumpy, Art Carney cameos, Earth Day and animated Boba Fett inserts when you get a load of this studio-based variety show. I honestly feel I’ve got the MCU coming out of both ends right now and could do without this big time…

      • It sounds truly horrendous. Even the MCU fanatics seem to be getting tired of Phase IV so perhaps this will do the franchise in for good. Well probably not, but I live in hope.

  3. Has NO ONE learned their lesson from the Star Wars Christmas Special? That was a travesty of proportions I have never seen since. So to try to re-tread the same path, that is idiotic, stupid and * I’m almost literally speechless now *

    • In a vague defence, I’m sure that they are deliberately leaning into a naff, lousy festive spectacular, and if that was their goal, this is a huge success. But not for me, I think it’s hot garbage.

          • Which brings up the question of complicity.
            Are you complicit in the guilt of such films by promoting them, even as negatively as you do here? I don’t have an immediate answer for that. Nor am I a typical movie watcher or streamer.
            Not having anything besides Prime for streaming, I feel that insulates me from barges’ worth of garbage that comes out. But now that I know this exists, such insulation is useless. Oh the horror….

            • I would call a two star review and certifying this as ‘rotten’ on RT could be considered promotion. I take no responsibility for the existence of a hot mess like this, I was not consulted in any way during the creative process.

              Is it your fault that amateurs like Dostoyevsky and Gogol are still peddling their half baked comics to the masses?

              • No responsibility. That’s the problem with kids like you today. Dagnabbit, gotta take some responsibility. And if you’re gonna stand on my lawn, the least you could do is mow it!

                Yes, I do take responsibility, because I’m not a namby-pamby whiny pants baby blubbering fanboi*. In fact, if it weren’t for me, the comic empire built upon the shoulders of Gogol and Dostoyevsky would crumble within a month.

                *(not to imply that you are a fanboi of this movie)

      • The Hallmark films are just like Marvel…..a few gems in a sea of dreck – the trick is finding the good ones. And just like Marvel the best ones are the older ones 🙂

        • I’m still trying to summon the energy to see the new Black Panther movie, but I have a feeling it’ll go on forever, so Hallmark more likely to feature in my festive viewing…

  4. Is this what streaming has done to the industry? If cinemas don’t come back, this is the future of film? Seems like some new kind of bottom is being scraped.

    • I’m always up for scraping a new kind of bottom, as you put it so well, but this is such tatty, will-this-do? stuff…

      • I at least got a smile out of “introducing Kevin Bacon” in the trailer. But even those sort of insider celebrity jokes are wearing thin.

        Is this a boring World Cup? I haven’t been following.

        • Canada were one of the better entries. But the ITV commentator on Wednesday said ‘it’s been a sensational day for football’ when the two previous games were abject nil-nil draws. If that’s a sensational day of football, I wouldn’t want to see a dull one.

          • I only saw how Argentina got upset by somebody (Saudi Arabia?) who scored on their only two shots on goal. That made me laugh. Wasn’t expecting Canada to go deep.

            • Canada didn’t score a goal or get any points, but they played the plucky underdog and were generally liked. USA and Australia similarly. But mostly it’s been a chance to see how much money celebrities will take to ignore human rights abuses. Morgan Freeman leading David Beckham as I write this…

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