Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Raccoon's On Our Side: “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
I’ll admit it: I was a little skeptical. Was Marvel scraping the bottom of the barrel, looking for even more superheroes to build a movie franchise around? Who the heck were the “Guardians of the Galaxy”? (Turns out the name has been kicking around the Marvel Universe since 1969, but the current team debuted in a 2008 comic book.) And then there was the stunt-casting: Bradley Cooper as a talking raccoon! Vin Diesel as a… uh… tree! Not to mention that August releases are not always your absolute top-quality films.

Voiced by Bradley Cooper and
Vin Diesel
Then the movie started, and… I was still skeptical. After an incredibly downbeat prologue (featuring a dying mom), the movie radically shifts gears to goofy fun. As I was processing that, the filmmakers began going down their summer-blockbuster checklist: Lots of comic-book-y fighting and shooting and explosions and spaceships. (One segment, in which the good guys must prevent the bad guys’ ships from touching the planet’s EPCOT-looking surface, seems tailor-made for a… yawn… cross-promotional video game.) And there’s the requisite “magical object” that competing forces are struggling to obtain. Oh, and Zoe Saldana is green instead of blue like she was in Avatar. It really felt like a cookie-cutter hero movie, not up to the level of The Avengers or some of the Batman/Spider-Man/Superman films, but decent enough late-summer entertainment for the kids.

But then the strangest thing happened: I realized I was genuinely enjoying the movie. And when all was said and done, I found Guardians of the Galaxy to be thoroughly satisfying, and definitely appropriate for the kids.

Glen Close in a cameo
A lot of this is due to the casting of Chris Pratt as the protagonist, who wishes everyone would call him Star-Lord. You’re likely familiar with Pratt as Andy on Parks and Recreation, and he employs the same dopey, childlike charm here. Pratt is exceedingly likable.

The mood remains fairly light throughout, with a lot of silly laughs. Yes, there are villains and the fate of the galaxy is at stake, but the movie avoids the existential gloom-and-doom that hangs over more “artful” hero offerings. Guardians is rated PG-13—the writers do throw in some “grown-up” gags and references, and as mentioned, there is a lot of cartoonish violence. (Also for the adult audience, in small roles: John C. Reilly and Glenn Close, who wears a ridiculous wig making it look like she was just cut from Hunger Games auditions. And the soundtrack features all your favorite good-time oldies.)

The gang's all here
The real key to the movie, though—and why I think it is a great one for kids—is the huge focus on friendship and teamwork. Characters begin with selfish motives and slowly realize that they can accomplish much more when they work together. And even more importantly, they learn that it feels so good to have friends—people you are loyal to, and who you can count on. Even if those people are raccoons or trees.


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