space odd-yssey Yes, that's a raccoon flying the starship.
I tried to write this review of Guardians of the Galaxy in my Adult Voice, but my inner 13-year-old kept butting in. My Adult Voice hoped to convince you, the adult reader, that this summer comic-book extravaganza is better than other summer comic-book extravaganzas because its hero cares less about the fate of a potentially universe-destroying MacGuffin than he does about safeguarding his vintage Walkman loaded with '70s hits.
My Adult Voice was all ready to point out that cowriter-director James Gunn helmed the cult favorite Slither and the clever, pitch-dark superhero spoof Super. My Adult Voice had pithy things to say about Guardians' good old-fashioned storytelling and character development and vividly realized CGI universe.
But something tells me you won't consider any of those sufficiently adult reasons for enjoying a movie that features the interstellar adventures of a talking raccoon. Not even in August. So, what the hell, let's give the floor to my inner 13-year-old. Maybe you have one of those, too.
So Guardians of the Galaxy is based on a 2008 reboot of a 1990 Marvel Comics series set in the 31st century (thanks, Wikipedia!). I never heard of that and don't care. But my favorite things ever are Star Wars and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, and if you put those in a Cuisinart with a couple of old issues of Mad magazine, you'd get this movie.
The main guy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), was kidnapped from Earth by aliens when he was a kid (which was totally my fantasy in middle school), and he's Blond Han Solo. He wears leather and flies a spaceship, all very sarcastically, and he calls himself Star-Lord. Anyway, one day "Star-Lord" pulls an Indiana Jones and steals an artifact, and suddenly the whole galaxy is after him! Everybody wants this gizmo that looks like a Fabergé egg, including a super-creepy guy with a painted face (Lee Pace), a green-skinned warrior chick (Zoe Saldana), a raccoon bounty hunter (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his sidekick, a tree named Groot (Vin Diesel). Yup, a tree.
Now, I know you're probably thinking this movie was made for 5-year-olds, but you wouldn't want Rocket the talking raccoon within a football field of your kindergartner. He talks like an insult comic and has the cutest quivery whiskers, and I would totally hire him to track down a space criminal, or buy a stuffed-animal version of him to put on my pillow. I really believed he and the tree were best pals, and I worried about them when they were in danger.
Which was, like, always. Because once our hero teams up with the raccoon, the tree, the warrior chick and a muscleman with an extreme literalism problem (Dave Bautista), the movie is wall-to-wall space fighting and space explosions and space wisecracks. It all happens about 100 times faster than the original Star Wars while taking itself about 1,000 times less seriously than the Star Wars prequels. And, while I could've cared less about the Fabergé egg and its threat to the galaxy, I did want Star-Lord's "Awesome Mixtape" that he got from his dying mom to be OK. Plus, as he so eloquently puts it, the galaxy is always worth saving when you're "one of the idiots who lives in it."
You know how some movies try so hard to have something for everybody — some spaceships, some explosions, some kissing, some laughs, some geeking out — that you end up feeling like you read a business guy's spreadsheet instead of seeing a movie? Guardians of the Galaxy is not one of those movies. When I was 13 for real, I invented a highly complimentary term for things that were joyfully absurd, free-wheeling, snarky and silly all at once: bullwhacko. This movie earns it and then some.
Margot Harrison is the Associate Editor at Seven Days; she coordinates literary and film coverage. In 2005, she won the John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.