Marvel: ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’ Review

Screenshot of Pom Klementieff as Mantis and Dave Bautista as Drax in ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’. Copyright goes to Marvel Studios.

Hey! Hallie here!

For those who have been following this blog for a while, you probably know that we’ve recently cut down on our Marvel posts. Between the sheer amount of content and feeling less satisfied with some of Marvel’s recent projects, both my sister and I decided to step back from this fandom for a while. But the trailers for ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’ looked really wholesome, so when my family started scrolling through Christmas content to get us in the holiday spirit, we figured this was worth a shot. The premise is really simple. Mantis and Drax, two of the most obliviously chaotic members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, hear a story about a bad Christmas Peter Quill once had. They also notice that Peter isn’t feeling all that happy this Christmas, either. So they decide to give him the ultimate Christmas present: Kevin Bacon. Yes, this is a kidnapping Kevin Bacon story. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, but I was pleasantly surprised! This was just as wholesome as I hoped, and paired with some comedy, it really stuck the landing for me. Let’s get into the good and bad in this special! SPOILERS AHEAD!

What I Liked:

Mantis and Drax: This Christmas special wouldn’t have worked if these two couldn’t carry the special. They’re the main characters, yes, but both of these characters are comic relief characters. Some comic relief characters can be irritating to follow without someone rational to balance them out, and others just aren’t strong enough to stand on their own. That’s not true of either Drax or Mantis. The two are hilarious in this, but they do a good job of balancing each other out without needing some kind of outside party. Drax is definitely the most outrageous of the two, with some of his comedy involving doing grievous harm to other people. In this way Mantis becomes the straight-man, as she actively works to stop Drax from doing any permanent damage to anyone or anything. But before Mantis dips into an area where she might seem too serious, Drax is able to lighten up the mood and involve her in more crazy antics. On top of this, for a Christmas special there’s really nothing wrong with having two characters who set an overall light tone. Both characters have an adorable bewilderment that endears you to both of them and casts the comedy in a heartwarming light. The humor here doesn’t dip into obnoxious purely because it’s going right for the heart of the audience, and that benefits the special and the characters greatly. As for the role these characters play overall, Drax is pretty much there for the good times. That’s respectable, but I think this is where Mantis truly steals the show. Mantis knows that Peter is technically her brother and she doesn’t really know how to tell him. Because of this, her misplaced desire to present Kevin Bacon to him as a Christmas gift becomes a journey to make her brother happy and find the courage to tell him that they’re related in the process. This character motivation is the most gut-wrenching, lovely part of this special, and is definitely one of the biggest things that will draw me back to this project every Christmas.

Kevin Bacon: Kevin Bacon does exactly what you want Kevin Bacon to do in this special. He screams a lot, makes fun of his own career, and ultimately ends the whole thing by singing a song and embracing the Christmas vibes. He does a very good job of matching the comedic timing of all the other characters. His interactions with Mantis and Drax when he first meets them are fun, mostly because he’s terrified. But his chilled out state of being after Mantis uses her abilities on him is even more hilarious because it allows for moments where Bacon has to react to lines like “We hate you” with happy acceptance. Kevin Bacon just looks like he’s having an amazing time throughout the whole special and it’s so fun to watch.

Kraglin and Nebula: Kraglin isn’t in this special a lot, but I do really love Kraglin. While he’s just as oblivious as many of the other members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, he’s quickly become the heart of the team. His conversation with Kevin Bacon highlights this so well. He demonstrates a clear caring for the other Guardians and Peter especially, as well as a self-awareness about the things he and the rest of the group don’t quite understand. But none of this is revealed in a preachy speech made to Kevin Bacon about why Mantis and Drax’s hearts are in the right place. It’s casual and grounded, as if Kraglin had accepted Kevin Bacon as a friend who he can chat comfortably with. I got the distinct impression that Kraglin would be incredibly easy to talk to and that impression alone warmed me to him. As for Nebula, she’s in this even less but it’s so nice to see her reluctantly but happily integrating herself into the family she’s made. I can’t get over the way she helped Mantis and Drax present Kevin Bacon to Peter, or the smile on her face after she gifted Bucky’s arm to Rocket. Nebula deserves the world and I’m glad she’s found some peace with the Guardians.

“I Don’t Know What Christmas Is (But Christmas Time is Here)”: This song is at the very beginning of the special and it’s probably the funniest part of the whole thing. It was written by James Gunn and performed by a band he’s loved for many years, The Old 97s. You have to listen to this song. It’s so unexpected, so wrong, and so outrageous in all the best ways. I completely lost it at Mrs. Claus working the pole.

What I Disliked:

Kevin Bacon’s Reaction to Mantis and Drax: I’m going to get nitpicky here because I don’t have many things in this special that I dislike. Why did Kevin Bacon assume Mantis and Drax were two crazy people in costumes? Why did he continue to assume this after they started exhibiting superpowers? Why did he act as though they were abnormal beings? This is the Kevin Bacon of the MCU. Where the general public has been made painfully aware of superpowered individuals and aliens because of frequent disasters. You would think Kevin Bacon would have more of an idea of what he was up against when he first met Mantis and Drax. It was strange that he was acting as though he had no idea what they could be.

“Here It Is Christmas Time”: I know they decided to use this song because the Old 97s have performed it before, but this is a really weird Christmas song that took me out of the special’s ending a bit. The lyrics don’t go well together and overall made me cringe with both their strangeness and overly obvious wording. It’s just an awkward song and I don’t think it suited the emotional beats of the finale.

Lost in LA: I think the sequence where Drax and Mantis first show up to LA went on for a bit too long. Especially when it came to the two spending time in the nightclub. Already the scene where Mantis and Drax kept getting stopped for pictures in front of the Chinese Theatre took a bit more time than I expected. But I felt the sequence of them spending time in LA really started to drag once we transitioned to them getting drunk. I could have done for less time on one or both of these sequences.

Clearly I don’t have much to complain about with this special. I wouldn’t say it’s a work of art or anything. But it’s really fun and makes a great addition to whatever Christmas movies you revisit each year. It has the perfect amount of heart, family focus, and comedy to keep you coming back for more. And more than anything else, it’s the first time I really feel like I was given enough of Mantis and her personality to fully appreciate her character. If for nothing else, watch this special for Mantis and Pom Klementieff’s amazing performance. This has officially made me like the character, and that alone makes watching ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’ so worth it.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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