Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’ is sweet, short and has ‘Swole Groot’

“The Guardians of the Galaxy” squad checked in with fans through Disney’s latest holiday special, which also stars celebrity Kevin Bacon. Expect holiday-themed musical numbers, sets dressed with Christmas lights and dialogue that’s both silly and heartwarming — perfect ingredients for a cozy movie night.

This release is nearly 10 minutes shorter than Marvel’s Halloween special, “Werewolf by Night,” which was nearly an hour long and inspired by an old-school horror classic. But, as Mike Cecchini wrote for the Den of Geeks, the TV-special format inspires “less of a ‘story’ and more ‘a vibe.’”

Taking place between “Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” the film gives fans a glimpse of fan-favorite characters celebrating the holidays in a new spaceship, Bowie, on the planet Knowhere.

Right at the start, Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt, comes into view, joined by Nebula (Karen Gillan), Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Cosmo the space dog (voiced by Maria Bakalova). Spoilers ahead!

‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’ spotlights a special duo

The storyline is pretty straightforward: Drax and Mantis head to Earth in an attempt to make a memorable Christmas for Peter.

It becomes clear early on that neither Drax nor Mantis really know what Christmas is about — they refer to a candy cane lawn decoration as a “red-and-white curly man” — but their love for their teammate pushes them to embark on the journey, according to Variety.

Peter remains missing from most of the episode as does the bigger, more muscular Groot, nicknamed “Swole Groot” by the internet. He has grown since his last appearance as an adolescent.

With that said, Drax and Mantis fill the gap through their sweet bond as seen earlier in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

The duo, dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters, heads to Hollywood Boulevard in search of Peter’s hero — Kevin Bacon from “Footloose,” according to Comic Book Review. With super strength and mind control powers, the overly literal Drax and the naive Mantis make a great team for two characters who usually never get enough screen time.

“I love the two of them,” director James Gunn told in an interview. He said that the other “Guardians” movies “incredibly sidelined” these two characters.

“So being able to really tell their story and put their journey at the middle of this was important to me. And to be able to see how, just how talented those two actors are as comedians and dramatically especially, you see how good Pom is in this show,” Gunn said.

Marvel’s Christmas special is all about the music

The best part of this 44-minute special is some of the original music, starting with “I Don’t Know What Christmas Is (But Christmastime is Here),” which Gunn wrote with the help of Rhett Miller, the lead singer of the Old 97’s, according to

And this led to the ultimate collaboration: The alien band in the film is played by the Old 97’s, too.

Another hit taking the spotlight is “Here It Is Christmastime,” where Bacon joins the band in a final performance.

“I love this song, it’s really hard to write a fresh Christmas song at this point. I started playing it, and I really was having a good time playing it and singing it,” Bacon said.

“Then to stand up there with The Old 97’s and they’re in makeup and crazy costumes, and to look down at the world and all the Guardians are there, and they’re rocking out to this song and so are the rest of that world, community. It was absolutely fun and hilarious, and just a great experience,” he said.

The special was scored by John Murphy, who also worked with Gunn on 2021’s “The Suicide Squad.” The tracklist includes the romantic “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues with Kristy MacColl, the energetic “Dead by XMas” by Hanoi Rocks, and the slightly sassy “Mrs. Claus” by Little Jackie.

Is ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’ OK for children to watch?

The special is a holiday conquest that is similar to the other movies featuring the superhero squad in terms of violence and language. Although this film takes drinking alcohol to another level, as Drax and Mantis go on a bender while searching for Bacon. (They even experience a hangover.)

But, as Common Sense Media reported, despite the bad language and action sequences, this bottleneck episode brings on the spirit of the holidays in a non-traditional way —whether it’s through the sweet friendship between Drax and Mantis or the fact that Kevin Bacon was meant to be a thoughtful Christmas present.

This is also a quick check-in from the intergalactic heroes before “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” releases on March 5, 2023, which will be the final installment.

“The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” is rated TV-14 and is available to stream on Disney+.

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