It’s been five long years since we’ve had a James Gunn project from Marvel. Between that time, the Guardians of the Galaxy have been almost as absent. The team is still a darling among MCU fans and they show off just why we all love them in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. This is the second in the new format of storytelling that Marvel is trying out with specials. The first was Werewolf By Night for Halloween, and now we have a special coming out in time for the holidays.

All the usual suspects from the Guardians of the Galaxy are here plus some newcomers. It features Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Kevin Bacon, Maria Bakalova, and Michael Rooker. While the cast might be pretty stacked, this is really a story about Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff). It’s only 45 minutes but James Gunn packed in the holiday cheer and some really fantastic moments of levity. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been filled with darkness and despair recently and it’s a nice change of pace to go to something that is just so bright and vibrant.

This is quite the simple story that ends up packing quite the punch to set up Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. That simplicity is the key to so many Holiday favorites out there. What is the goal of this Holiday Special? It’s that Mantis and Drax want to cheer Peter up for the holiday season. How do they do that? By getting his hero and favorite person in the entire world to him, Kevin Bacon.

Guardians of the Galaxy

It’s that sense of wonder and fun that makes The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special such a good watch. This is among the Christmas/Holiday essentials for recent movies and TV. Drax and Mantis are absolutely hilarious here. Dave Bautista has already made Drax his own, but he furthers it here. He’s got some of the funniest moments of the special, particularly when Mantis and he are looking for Kevin Bacon. Mantis had her role beefed up in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Infinity War but she’s still relatively new to audiences. She really gets a lot of development and lines to work with here. Pom Klementieff plays her with the same wonder, but adds even more personality to the character than before.

As for the rest of the team, being a 45-minute special, they don’t get nearly as much to do. While they’re on the periphery of the story, the rest of the Guardians still matter here. If you’re looking for more action from them, this isn’t the place. Cosmo the Spacedog is utterly adorable and Maria Bakalova is a nice addition, even if it’s just her voice. Kevin Bacon playing Kevin Bacon playing multiple parts is just as awesome as it sounds. His scenes might break the minds of people about what exists and doesn’t exist in the MCU.

Through it all, you get what makes the Guardians of the Galaxy some of the most beloved characters in the MCU and plenty of holiday cheer. For people who have been fatigued by so many Marvel projects over the past two years, this does enough to wrangle you back in. It’s a quick ride but one so filled to the brim with heart, hope, and fun, that it’s well worth your watch.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special streams on exclusively Disney+ on November 25th.

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