‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’
Director: James Gunn
Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Kurt Russell
3 (out of 5) Globes
Smirky and wisecracking, the original “Guardians of the Galaxy” arrived in 2014 as a tonic to Marvel’s doctrine of stony-faced superhero spectacles. But three years and a handful of imitators later (“Deadpool”got the joke; “Suicide Squad”extremely did not), the whole juvenile irreverence shtick has started to get tiresomely familiar.
Though it reaps plenty of laughs, director James Gunn’s follow-up doesn’t do itself any favors by rehashing many of its predecessor’s fan-favorite moments beat for beat. Those hoping for a nearly-identical “Guardians of the Galaxy”featuring a few new nouns will be pleased with the sequel, but the rest of us will recognize it as a karaoke cover of a solid-gold pop hit. It’s a serviceable rendition, but like any drink-emboldened belting of Toto’s “Africa,”it just makes the audience long for the genuine article.
“Vol. 2” rejoins our scrappy band of freelance heroes as they wrap up an assignment for a race of haughty solid-gold aliens — a running subplot that serves no function aside from tossing another shovelful of coal into the Pop Culture Trump Thinkpiece furnace. Soon they cross paths with the father that Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) never knew. His wayward pop-pop may have the chiseled chin of Kurt Russell, but he’s actually an extension of a sentient planet ominously named Ego. To reveal the specific nature of his reappearance would constitute a big fat spoiler, but suffice it to say that his possessing a functional penis ends up being a significant plot point.
Everyone’s tackling some family issues: Bradley Cooper-voiced space raccoon Rocket bonds with roving gun-for-hire Yondu (Michael Rooker) over their troubled upbringings, Gamora and Nebula (Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan) hash out some sisterly grudges and literal-minded Drax (Dave Bautista) mourns his lost wife. The fewer words spent on Baby Groot, a living meme bloodlessly engineered for maximum cuteness, the better.
The introduction of family bonds as a unifying theme represents Gunn’s most decisive break from the original’s winning formula. Aside from that, the second verse is same as the first: same veranda-set wisps of romance, same out-of-focus action-in-the-background sight gag, same climactic battle with all the visual panache of a video game cutscene, all the way down to the soundtrack — the series’secret weapon. The original film laid claim to “Come and Get Your Love”and “Hooked On a Feeling.”“Mr. Blue Sky”was long ago desecrated by “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”
Follow Charles Bramesco on Twitter @intothecrevasse