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!