Review: 'Guardians of
the Galaxy Vol. 2'

An entire universe of gleeful violence and a great soundtrack
He may be cute, but Baby Groot is prepared to go nuclear in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.'

Slobs vs. slobs in space: our heroes in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, are pursued by the Sovereign. They're a gilded, genetically engineered race of stuck-ups with a lot of money for bounty hunters. Thanks to the light fingers of the thieving yet endearing Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) the gang is chased by a sky full of drones. The golden aristos operate them with arcade-like video game controls and vintage sound effects.

Rescue comes from an omnipotent old hippie called "Ego" (Kurt Russell), a self-declared "small-g god." This omnipotent beardo is the real father of "Star Lord" Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). Ego owns a planet that looks like million-dollar van-art, with orderly little creeks and fountains. Some '70s stoners had posters like this. It all looks very 420 friendly.

The father-son bonding is interspersed with the continuing quarrel between space-princess Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her evil sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), an iridescent creature with an enameled head.

There are a lot of morsels here—dozens, really—and it starts off the summer with a bang. The color is as wild as in Zhang Yimou's costumed epics. As played by the improbably gigantic Dave Bautista, Drax is the funniest interstellar muscle since Adam Baldwin in Serenity. He gets the best comeback in a movie full of them. Peter tries to scoff off Drax's fears about Ego: "You sound like an old woman." "Because I'm wise?"

Baby Groot, the simple little sprout, has to be coached through the process of planting an atom bomb. Pom Klementieff's frail empath Mantis has deep wet eyes and the supernatural smoothness of the young Diana Rigg.

But even with his newly acquired brawn, Chris Pratt has to do more heavy lifting as an actor than he can, sometimes. He has an air of perplexity that mirrors the film's uneven tone. The sequel shares the first Guardian's taste for impalement, with a series of close-up reaction shots of the transfixed. The blue-bruiser Yondu (Michael Rooker) launches a fire arrow that makes glowing tracers as it speeds through the chests of a small army of men. Even if they're murderous space pirates who deserve it, there's an unsettling amount of barbaric glee in these movies. To enjoy them, you have to accept their argument that it's not all about violence, but all about fireworks.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
PG-13; 137 Mins.

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